The Chinese Boxer (1970)

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Hugely entertaining and significant film in the evolution of Hong Kong action cinema; the first Shaw Brothers hit to focus entirely on empty-handed kung fu fighting, in stark contrast to the post-modern, swashbuckling wuxia cinema of the 1960s. Shaw’s rivals, Golden Harvest, would quickly go on to perfect the form thanks to their new signing, Bruce Lee, but it was Jimmy Wang Yu who popularised it first. Already a wuxia hero from the One-Armed Swordsman films, this would prove to be Wang Yu’s final film for Shaw Brothers, causing him to eventually break his contract with the studio at the …

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Ip Man: The Awakening (2021)

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Another DTV Ip Man spin-off, which follows very similar straight-to-streaming efforts like director Li Liming’s double-bill of 2019’s Ip Man: Kung Fu Master – in which Dennis To returned to the titular role – and its 2020 prequel, Ip Man: Crisis Time, plus Fu Li-wei’s 2019 film, Ip Man and Four Kings. Miu Tse (the wushu kid from the 1990s Jet Li classics New Legend of Shaolin and My Father is a Hero) plays Ip Man as an impulsive young wing chun expert and academic who relocates from Foshan to the bright lights of British-owned Hong Kong in the early 1900s. He …

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Fistful of Vengeance (2022)

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Instead of a second season of Netflix’s wacky Highlander-esque kung fu series Wu Assassins, the streamer offers up this feature-length sequel instead. The boys return – and it is mostly the boys, unless you include JuJu Chan, reprising her role as sassy assassin, Zan – a month after the events which closed-out the first season. We join them as they cause chaos in a Bangkok nightclub hunting for the killer of their beloved Jenny. The bromance involves hotheaded hunk Lu Xin (Lewis Tan), Jenny’s brother Tommy (Lawrence Kao), and the all-powerful yet completely benign Kai (Iko Uwais), now bestowed with god-like …

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Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

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As the title suggests, this is a vibrant, delirious, and demented sensory overload which is part sci-fi action film, part absurdist comedy, part existential crisis, and part dysfunctional family drama. Throughout its hyperkinetic multiverse storyline stands the steady, mercurial presence of Michelle Yeoh, playing world-weary laundromat owner, Evelyn, in a career-defining performance. It would be hard to conceive of any other actor being able to convincingly play the role, given Yeoh’s multifaceted, multilingual and genre-hopping career – someone who is equally comfortable in a ballgown at a glitzy Hollywood premiere as she is fighting baddies with a broadsword. The film is …

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Final Score (2018)

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This is clearly a shonky film, but at least director Scott Mann has the wherewithal to make his ‘Die Hard in a football stadium’ really silly – and it’s all the better for it. It’s the story of two Russian revolutionaries (played by two British actors, Pierce Brosnan and Ray Stevenson, putting on their hammiest accents) whose decades-long feud over a political coup in “Sekovia” is played out over a football match at the Boleyn Ground, home of London-based soccer team, West Ham United. Hammers fans will know this movie for being the stadium’s swan song before its demolition in …

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Bloodsport III (1997)

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The continuing saga of art dealer, ex-prisoner, new age hippy and Van Damme lookalike Alex Cardo (Bernhardt). After winning the Kumite, Alex scrubs up nicely as a tuxedo’ed high-roller in Sri Lanka. He meets the burly, booming Julius (John Rhys-Davies, who must’ve been sightseeing at the time) – another art dealer (why are there so many art dealers in these films?) – who wants to put together another Kumite for reasons which are purely plot-driven. When Alex refuses to take part, Julius blows up his sifu, James Hong, using an exploding telephone. Alex absconds to the hills to find a …

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Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (1996)

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Eight years after the first Bloodsport comes this indirect sequel. One of the alleged reasons for the delay was Van Damme claiming that he would like to return to the scene of his breakout film role and star in the follow-up himself. But, for whatever reason, Bloodsport 2 winds up becoming the screen debut for Swiss stud Daniel Bernhardt, a martial artist and model with more than a passing resemblance to the ‘Muscles from Brussels’. Despite the clear physical and dramatic comparison, Bernhardt plays a wholly new character, a French art thief called Alex, who winds up in a Thai jail …

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Future War (1997)

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Predator meets The Terminator meets Cyborg meets Jurassic Park, but made on the sort of money that wouldn’t even cover the catering budget on any of those films. This is made very early in the straight-to-video career of martial arts star Daniel Bernhardt, who may have only been starting out, but evidently deserved better than this. Despite being able to act, Bernhardt must have been instructed not to bother on this one – or at least told to play on his ability to channel a Van Damme-esque naivety. Even his obvious charms and slow-motion kicking can’t save this convoluted sci-fi disaster; …

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True Vengeance (1997)

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Another decent, straight-to-video head-kicker starring Daniel Bernhardt, who gets to try out a more badass persona as a hotshot assassin in sunglasses and an overcoat, rolling around in slow-motion with a gun in each hand like he’s in a John Woo movie. It’s also another early outing for a few Hollywood martial artists who would go on to redefine stunts and action movies in the west; people like fight choreographers Chad Stahelski and Brad Martin, and stunt performers Jonathan Eusebio, Marcus Young and Tim Rigby. Bernhardt plays Griffin, a decorated ex-Navy SEAL who is introduced as a doting single dad …

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Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

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This has all the deadpan delivery, neon-lit style and gun-toting ultra-violence you would expect from a story based on a comic book – only it’s not. Navot Papushado’s original premise is set in a heightened alternate reality; one in which a shadowy, patriarchal organisation known as ‘the Firm’ employ female assassins to do their dirty work. The set-up doesn’t make any sense – and you get the feeling that the very ‘on-trend’ aesthetic may date the film relatively quickly – but it remains effective and enjoyable despite its very obvious references. Director-writer Papushado finds a good tonal balance between light …

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