Action is alive and thriving. Here are just four of the many recent Action genre releases and reissues to bless our lives with pure destruction.
Jiu Jitsu (2020) [added to Netflix]
The trailer for this film was probably seen by far more than the actual film; held up as yet another example of the Nicolas Cage Renaissance so many currently worship. His role is surprisingly meatier than the cameo vibe implied, but the strength of the film is in its zen-like delivery; a signature for director Dimitri Logothetis and much of the action underground that has been humbly evolving in leaps and bounds the past decade or so. This underground looks towards a ’90s Action philosophy with glorious, abusive levels of slow motion, new age music, and dream logic. This surreal approach forces the viewer to focus sharply on the spectacle of advanced martial arts and the mind-boggling things human bodies can do. If Albert Pyun’s
Cyborg is your cup of tea, you’ll love what indie Action is up to these days.
Danger USA aka Mind Trap (1989) [added to Massacre Video]
Danger USA is one of the wittiest near-zero budget Action films of the ’80s, crafted from a narrative that is just bonkers enough to work. The fights and stunts are far from the most impressive you’ll ever see, but it is such a ridiculous ride (that truly seems to know what it is without milking it) that you will be happy with what pours into your eyes. Other than on Blu-Ray, this has been impossible to watch streaming until now thanks to the recent launch of Massacre Video’s new digital site. Take advantage!
Death Promise (1977) [reissued on Blu-Ray by Vinegar Syndrome]
The soul of a kung-fu flick is presenting a world where everyone constantly converses using martial arts. Everyone. From the moment the film begins to the moment it ends. “Grandma kicks grandpa’s ass to get him out of bed and eat breakfast” sort of all-the-time fighting. Typically these films are set in some sort of mythical past to ease us past disbelief, but as Shaolin Soccer showed us, this storytelling style is slapstick perfect when set in the now. For Death Promise, that “now” is gritty ’70s New York and we get to see down-on-their-luck tenants fight their way through slumlord bosses all the way to the top of the economic food chain. Bless these heroes.
Godzilla vs Kong (2021) [released in theaters & on HBO Max]
The sort of Action that is all animated based on decades of in-camera stunts and explosions sometimes feels like a genre cheat. Other times it feels like the impressive art of cinematography-driven action. Much like any Transformers movie though, if you read the credits you find out that despite the constant CGI spew, the crew also included 8,000 stuntmen and they actually blew up hundreds of buildings. Then they took that footage and animated all over it as well. The thing is, the method doesn’t matter. The art does and in this case, it feels like a true Action blockbuster. Just like it should. Also, unlike the other Monsterverse entries, the focus truly is on monsters fighting this time. There is also a subtext about how we quickly label those that remind us of ourselves as heroes, and label the scary “other” as a villain even if vast experience tells us logically we got it wrong. But if you don’t want all that, it is about monsters fighting. ★