FISTFUL OF VENGEANCE
(director:Roel Reiné; screenwriters: Cameron Litvack, Yalun Tu; cinematographer: Roel Reiné; editors: Ben Wilkinson/Micheal G. England; music: Toby Chu; cast: (Kai), (Iko Uwais), Lewis Tan (Lu Xin Lee), Lawrence Kao (Tommy Wah), Juju Chan Szeto (Zan Hui), Jason Tobin (William Pan), Pearl Thusi Francesca Corney (Adaku), Yayaying Rhatha Phongam (Ku An Qi); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Roel Reiné/Yalun Tu: A Netflix release; 2022)
“If it wasn’t for the fight scenes, this slapdash action pic would have completely lost me.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A follow-up to the Netflix TV series Wu Assassin, about a crime-fighting martial-arts gang operating in Bangkok. The Chinese martial-arts film had little appeal to me, but is serviceable. Its appeal is to those viewers who can handle its violent bloody scenes (like the one where the good guy is in a fight with the bad guy, and forces nails into his forehead and uses a hammer to put nails in the palms of his hands).
It’s directed with good fight scenes and is beautifully photographed (great location shots of Thailand) by Netherlands born filmmaker Roel Reiné (“Dead Again in Tombstone”/”Admiral”), who directed 2 episodes in the Netflix’s Wu Assassin TV series.
The three leads of the Wu Assassin series are reunited– Kai (Iko Uwais, Indonesian martial-art fighter) and his friends Lu Xin (Lewis Tan) and Tommy (Lawrence Kao).
In the opening scene Kai and Lu Xin and Tommy are at a lively Bangkok dance club trying to find out who killed Tommy’s sister Jenny at the club. While there they have a talk with Dr. William Pan (Jason Tobin), a biotech billionaire, who tells the trio about Pan Gu, the first man according to Chinese mythology who created the universe.
This leads the justice fighters to go on two missions, one to get revenge for the murder of Jenny by getting the killer and secondly to “save the world” by stopping a power-hungry supernatural creature from destroying it.
It’s helpful to know that the Dao (not Tao) was the power source for Kai to be a “Wu Assassin,” who was created as the first Wu Assassin who was expressly made to destroy Pan Gu. We also learn from this hokum story that Yin (chaos) and Yang (order) are the two halves of Pang Gu, which might give it some spiritual credit in that world for dropping Yin and Yang on us, even if in its own distorted way. Trust me, there are no spiritual lessons to learn here.
As we follow the Wu Assassin investigation of who killed Tommy’s sister Jenny, it leads us to Ku An Qi (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam), a supernatural entity who has used her powers to seize control of the city’s underworld, and, who according to Dr. Pan, is about to cause chaos in the world by unleashing her supernatural powers. We learn Ku killed Jenny when she tried to stop her from killing Kai and absorbing his energy, after trying to kill him in China, Ireland and recently in San Francisco.
With all this plot information to grok, those familiar with the TV show have a decided advantage. But new viewers (like me) should have no fear, as the first act is mainly about filling us in on what has gone down before and preparing us for what’s about to follow. Such an explanation about the story was needed (even if this film can stand on its own), but it took away spontaneity. If it wasn’t for the fight scenes, this slapdash action pic would have completely lost me.
REVIEWED ON 2/23/2022 GRADE: C