In 2021, if you wanted a solid, technically impressive action thriller, you could have done a lot worse than James Nunn’s One Shot. A frantic, real-time survival thriller like Assault on Precinct 13 on steroids, its illusion of one continuous take of relentless mayhem was short on character but marked Nunn as an action helmer of no little promise. He and star Scott Adkins return with its follow-up, picking up exactly where its predecessor left off. Once again, the limitations of its format are clear, but there is no denying the effectiveness of its intimate, close-combat action.

Having survived an attack on the black site in Poland from One Shot, Navy SEAL Jake Harris is tasked with escorting terror suspect Amin Mansur (Waleed Elgadi) to Washington for interrogation. US intelligence is desperately trying to track down the dirty bomb plot unveiled in the the first film, and they believe Mansur has the answers. Before they can even get the suspect out of the airport, Harris and his team are attacked by a mysterious, highly skilled, and completely ruthless, team of assailants.

Fresh from his amusing fat-suited cameo in John Wick 4, Scott Adkins is back in a black tactical vest as the taciturn, no-nonsense Jake Harris. He’s not the most chatty of action stars, but like the film itself, he’s effective in his own utilitarian way. Occasionally barking orders to Mansur and his heavily-pregnant doctor wife Niesha (Meena Rayann) in between slitting throats and point-black gun battles. And Adkins is very, very good at it, and the one-take illusion works to mask any deficit on the acting front. Once the action gets going, there is nothing else except survival. Nunn’s camera is hand-held and hyper-kinetic, but the action is clear and coherent. So impressive is the filming and choreography on this low a budget in fact, that you begin to wonder what excuse countless blockbusters have for getting it so wrong.

As far those limitations: It’s not just characterisation that gets defenestrated, but characters themselves. Adkins’ fellow B-movie icon Michael Jai White is given second billing as the mastermind of the attack on the airport, but gets limited screentime by design. Alexis Knapp and veteran character actor Tom Berenger appear in pivotal roles and are more organically incorporated into the carnage, but once White’s been introduced he vanishes by design for long periods, and he’s a splash of personality that is missed. Besides White, perhaps the strongest performers are actually Waleed Elgadi and Meena Rayann, with their characters injecting some much-needed humanity besides ‘US military dude 25’ or ‘armed mercenary 33’. There’s one scene of torture that Elgadi plays to an agonised pitch that is way more harrowing than the film needs.

Unlike the frequent bullets slamming into skulls, One More Shot will have little lasting impact. It sets up a third instalment that promises to widen the scope of the action further, but it’s not likely to have anybody on Empire Strikes Back tenterhooks. Yet for all it has obvious flaws in its characterisation and there’s a certain repetition to the action, One More Shot is made with enough skill, and actual love for the action genre, to be one of the stronger B-movie scrappers that you’ll see this year.

Screening on Sky Cinema/ NowTV from Fri 12 Jan 2024