Each month The Grumps bring you a selection of what’s new and now in the Action genre. Strap in for Round-house Round-Up!
Xtremo (2021) [new on netflix]
With only a few films under his belt, Daniel Benmayor delivers unto us a very well-crafted crime/gang action film called Xtremo. The comparisons to John Wick are abundant and obvious, but where Wick (in later entries) is often wall-to-wall kicky punchy/gun-fu, etc., Xtremo doesn’t use fancy flourishes nearly as much, distancing itself a bit with quick brutality. Its solid fight choreography, neon visuals, and economic use of setting really push this film as one of the more satisfying in the genre. Yet, as with John Wick, we’re still rooting for the bad guy. However, this allows for worse henchmen to be obliterated by our protagonist and along the way, he is very much battered and wounded, less superhuman than the Wick template. It’s a revenge tale complicated with our protagonist’s compassion, but it never gets schmaltzy, as our hero is both psychically and physically wounded from an earlier attempt on his life that, as the cliche would have it, took his only child from him (hence the revenge). It’s a tight, no-muss, stylishly brutal film with beautifully shot cinematography. All of this is more of why I maintain that Euro action is the best action.
Infinite (2021) [NEW ON PARAMOUNT+]
If we’re to have another franchise of high concept sci-fi action that spans centuries (think Highlander and the non-starter Assassin’s Creed), Infinite seems a worthy effort. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but Antoine Fuqua’s prowess as a director is more than adequate for this kind of thing. Though it seems like set pieces are cribbed from other franchises (“yeah, right”-style car chases, chop-socky sword fights, paramilitary death squad showdowns in a forest, drone attacks, big jet plane action) it’s all pleasantly and capably put together to at the very least seem like it’s enough of its own thing. It is mid-tier big-budget action and a satisfying lazy Sunday watch — especially if you enjoy “Mark Wahlberg Asking Questions.”
From Brian Miller:
THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD (2021) [RELEASED IN THEATERS & ON HBO MAX]
This has early ’90s blockbuster written all over it. By today’s mainstream standards it makes sense that some criticize the film as merely serviceable, but with a slight change of perspective that means humbly entertaining. The insistence on an invisible MacGuffin eventually begs for a level of absurdity in the action which we never really get, but for a pleasant light action vibe piece, it is an enjoyable detour.
ALLEY CAT (1984) [REISSUED ON BLU RAY FROM VINEGAR SYNDROME]
The mid-70s through the lens of the mid-80s starring a fascinating action lead, Karin Mani. She looks and frequently dresses like a 12-year-old but with the demeanor of The Simpsons‘ Edna Krabappel in constant “over it” mode. As a vigilante, her motivation is neither pent-up rage nor sociopathic revenge, but rather something truly feral; making her code name of Alley Cat perfectly appropriate.
From Scott Floronic (Drunk in a Graveyard):
LAZARUS (2021) [RECENT EXCLUSIVE ON TUBI]
Lazarus, an indie superhero movie from writer and director RL Scott and released exclusively on Tubi, is about a man coming back from the dead through infernal means to mete out justice against a crime syndicate destroying his city. I think the most accurate way to describe this movie is serviceable, as it is more entertaining than most would anticipate, but just barely. It isn’t a terrible film but there’s almost nothing memorable on-screen here, except for maybe the fact that Lazarus’ costume features a mask with a “Mac Tonight” chin. It’s got some decent enough action scenes (though there is some questionable choreography sprinkled throughout so consider yourself warned) and visual effects for an indie action/superhero outing, but it ultimately feels like it borrows too much from Spawn (but leaves out the ‘90s edginess). There are worse movies you could spend your time with, but you’re ultimately getting what you paid for here. I’d suggest getting a few drinks in your bloodstream before clicking play on this one.
Swordfish (2001) [Added to netflix June 1]
Are all hackers trolls, or can they be noble? This is the question Dominic Sena’s Swordfish tries to answer. This cyberpunkish actioner has long been lamented by genre lovers, most likely for its hokiness (John Travolta might have used this as a warm-up for his overly cartoony turn in 2004’s The Punisher) and notoriously unrealistic portrayal of tech culture. High-pressure fellatio-hack aside, though, Swordfish is notable as a surprising foreshadowing of The War On Terror, released only months before 9/11 and containing some very strangely on-the-nose Patriot Act type stuff. The action here starts off low-key, but builds to a ridiculous final act involving a helicopter lifting a city bus, so make sure you stick around after Halle Berry’s infamous $500,000 “blink-and-you’ll-miss-them” topless scene. Rounding out the cast are Hugh Jackman, Don Cheadle, and Vinnie Jones, who are all, in 2001, strikingly skinny compared to their now-beefed up tough guy selves; Jackman is a bit green still having only really been an X-Man once by this point, but he holds his own against the scene-chewy Travolta. All in all, Swordfish is a decent, somewhat quirky even, watch — and 20 years later, a definite kooky time capsule.
Can’t get enough Action? Take a look at last month’s Round-house Round-Up for more recommendations!