The Guillotines (2012)

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A modern, 3D-rendered retelling of the 1975 Shaw Brothers film, The Flying Guillotine, from director Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs). He uses his visual effects skills to cook-up a flying guillotine worthy of the digital age. This is no flimsy hatbox on a chain which is simply thrown into the air before landing on the necks of its unsuspecting victims. This sophisticated, multi-blade contraption spins viciously at the end of a massive sword, gathering momentum until it is released like a frisbee, whirling violently in various directions, disorientating its victims, and revealing a sequence of evil-looking sharp things before the victim’s …

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Return of the Chinese Boxer (1977)

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This has all the hallmarks of a filmmaker throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. It is not too surprising, then, that this would prove to be Wang Yu‘s final film as director, producer and star. His 1970s output – as well as being mostly insane – was prone to repetition, featuring variations of his most popular characters, and sequences which seem interchangeable with his other movies. For instance, this film features an extended tournament sequence plonked in the middle for no good reason, centring on Kam Kong as another mad monk, which feels eerily similar to the …

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Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story (2020)

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When talking about the specific subject of female stunt performers in Hollywood, the ‘untold’ story is one about pervasive, decades-long male dominance in the stunt industry, and an implied and often overt misogyny. It is evident in the way female stunt performers were prolific during the silent era – regularly filmed doing dangerous things like leaping from horses onto moving trains and driving cars through buildings – until Hollywood became fully industrialised and incorporated, run by businessmen who pushed women to the margins. It is evident in the way Debbie Evans – one of America’s best competitive motorcyclists – says she …

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Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (2022)

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Set in an anthropomorphic version of feudal Japan in which all its inhabitants are cats, an unscrupulous official for the Shogun vows to destroy the small village of ‘Kakamucho’ in order to extend his palace. Without a samurai to protect them, the poor feline folk are doomed. Enter Hank – a dog in a cat’s world, wearing a Game of Death dressing gown with a longing to be a warrior despite any obvious sword skills. He is hired by the official to protect the village, assuming that Hank will fail and the town will be his for the taking. Hank’s …

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The Gray Man (2022)

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An adaption of Mark Greaney’s The Gray Man novel series about a former assassin for the CIA, this is one of Netflix’s most expensive films with a production budget of around $200m. It’s the sort of bloated, globe-trotting, star-studded action movie that might make many executives at Netflix question its long-term economic strategy, particularly at a time when the streaming platform is struggling with declining subscriber numbers. The Russo Brothers – responsible for the excellent Captain America and Avengers movies at Marvel Studios – bring their slick Hollywood operation to a new project (or ‘IP’, to use the appropriate studio …

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Shadow Master (2022)

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Low-budget horror flick with an effective, devilish, gruesome streak and great action – sort of Clive Barker meets Albert Pyun. Director Peaary Teo leans into the film’s twisted mix of neo-noir, ghost story and devil worship, leaving room for gifted martial artist D.Y. Sao (a USA national wushu team member and Simu Liu’s fight trainer for Shang-Chi) to show his stuff. Set in a vaguely apocalyptic Blade Runner-esque dystopian future, Sao plays a nightwatchman at a creepy hospital where kids are being snatched as they sleep. Their spirits are used by the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’ in some ritualistic …

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Baby Assassins (2021)

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Highschool grads Mahiro (Saori Izawa) and Chisato (Akari Takaishi) are at that awkward transitional phase between adolescence and adulthood, negotiating the roles expected of them as two young girls in Japanese society. Both work as coldblooded killers for an unspecified organisation – led by the unseen and mysterious “Mr Tasaka” – and they are seemingly hired to kill wrongdoers, like Yakuza members and the like. They are made to live together and assume a semblance of normality to act as cover for their day jobs. As the two adapt to being roomies, the film becomes less of an action movie …

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Bring Him Back Dead (2022)

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Cliché-ridden DTV drudgery which starts as an almost carbon-copy remake of Reservoir Dogs before moving into Rambo territory. The first act sees a bunch of criminals decamp at a cabin in the woods after a botched bank heist, with one of the group bleeding out, coupled with lots of shouting, swearing, and overacting. The ‘one man army’ second act is actually a lot more sure-footed, with Gary Daniels going rogue and heading into the forest on horseback after drugging the crew and stealing the stash. At almost 60, Daniels can still kick people in the head with great style, even if …

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The Woman King (2022)

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This film about the Agojie – an all-fighting, all-woman military regiment of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey – is based on some semblance of fact. Although its coming-of-age story about a young underdog hero might carry the faint whiff of Hollywood contrivance, there is great passion in the film’s postmodern storytelling and scenes of violent retribution, which see the Agojie laying waste to European slave traders with wild, gut-busting relish. Although it may lean on a number of predictable plot devices, the screen is littered with landmark moments, and scenes of great power and resonance. The world-building from director Gina Prince-Bythewood (The …

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Violent Night (2022)

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87North take their winning formula from films like Nobody and Bullet Train – depressed middle-aged man finds new meaning and purpose in life through violence – and apply it to the Santa Claus story, reimagining a drunk, overweight – and divorced? – Kris Kringle in a mad mix of Home Alone meets Die Hard, with added hammer blows to the face. John Wick fight choreographer Jonathan Eusebio delivers the punishing pugilism, with jolly old Saint Nick played by a boozy, cranky, overweight David Harbour (excellent). Santa is recast as an immortal Viking warrior – an origin story we really need to …

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