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In the crime thriller ‘Furioza’, warring gangs fight with their fists, not weapons. The gang of the title is led by Kaszub (Wojciech Zielinski). But it is his younger brother, Dawid (Mateusz Banasiuk), who interests a ruthless researcher (Lukasz Simlat) and his partner (Weronika Ksiazkiewicz). Wanting to take out Furioza, they push Dawid (who long ago left the group to become a doctor) into infiltrating the group as an informant or risking his brother going to jail.
Through its reports of the bonds of brotherhood forged in cruelty, Polish director Cyprian T. Olencki’s film often recalls “A Clockwork Orange”. Kaszub’s volatile best friend Golden (Mateusz Damiecki), for example, doesn’t begin to trust Dawid until he’s proven himself in battle. The forest brawl that ensues with the rival mob Antman consists of a jumble of bodies slamming, throwing and crying at each other. In this adrenaline-pumping movie about loyalty to your kin, David wonders which side he’s really fighting on, and wonders if the cops are the real villains.
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Aided by director Harjit Singh Ricky, “Ucha Pind” begins with surprising grace as Azaad (Navdeep Kaler) and his uncle Najjar (Sardar Sohi) stargaze on a cool, calm night. They awaken the next morning to goons in the service of the mighty kingpin Zaildar Jagir Singh (Aashish Duggal). He calls the titular city his territory, and these two mobsters encroach on it. But the pair are no pushovers. They are cold-blooded killers who come out with firearms.
Despite Jagir’s lead attack, Najjar and Azaad still work with him. But delightful double, triple and quadruple crosses in Narinder Ambarsariya’s playful script throw rivalries and friendships into the air. How they land leads to rich, ballet-like violence, akin to the Hong Kong style of the 1990s.
‘Vengeance is mine, everyone else pays cash’
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Ajo Kawir (Martino Lio) is not your typical action hero. Hailing from a crime-ridden neighborhood, he lives with erectile dysfunction, leaving him emasculated in a hyper-masculine society. Instead of any sexual pleasure, the frustrated Ajo fights anyone who crosses his path. But trouble arises when he meets Iteung (Ladya Cheryl), a tough kid and falls in love with a local crime boss. How can Ajo bring her happiness given his predicament? In this Indonesian film, directed by Edwin, fighting becomes an erotic act; his satisfaction comes from two bodies flying through the air, moving with and against each other.
Set in the 1980s, the film worships the conventions of the action genre of that decade and adds new wrinkles. A cunning, sleazy mobster seeks Iteung’s affection by promising what Ajo can’t do. And a conspiratorial ghost that tempts lascivious men to death haunts Ajo. “Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash” cleverly critiques machismo and its inherent expectations. It also features open, fluid fight scenes filmed at 16 millimeters and scored to metal music that injects love into furious acts of violence.
I have a weakness for meditative action movies. “The Way,” by writer-director Khalili Dastan, not only fits the bill, it also has a metaphysical twist. It focuses on a death row inmate, Jane Arcs (Eli Jane), who discovers spiritual peace and escapes by learning tai chi from a fellow inmate, Master Xin (Joan Wong).
Much of “The Way” maneuvers like a mystery. How Jane ended up in prison, we don’t know at first. She once fought in underground MMA matches and developed a reputation as a ruthless fighter. Prison only hardened her. She may or may not have a sexual relationship with a prison guard, Max Stone (Kelcey Watson), who is trying to find a way to break her out. Perspectives often switch without warning in the film, including characters waking up in different bodies. For example, at one point Stone finds himself an inmate in a prison cell. Dastan’s adventurous anti-death penalty script has many swings, and the philosophical goals they pursue are part of the fun.
‘Yaksha: ruthless operations’
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“Justice is preserved by being just,” explains prosecutor Han Ji-hoon (Park Hae-soo). Ji-hoon ignores the pleas of his cohorts to bend the rules to win a case. So his superiors, embarrassed by the legal loss, relegated him to the dying National Intelligence Service. Ji-hoon seems stuck there until the director of the agency comes up with a tough case that, if successful, will put Ji-hoon back in his old position. He must venture to Shenyang, China, to inquire about a rogue branch of the agency led by a notorious cop: the vicious, rule-breaking Ji Kang-in (Sol Kyung-gu).
In South Korean director Hyeon Na’s muscular gangland film, there are very few good guys. Instead, in this seedy world full of competing governments (Japan, the United States, China) and underworld syndicates, only the morally flexible people succeed. Huge set pieces—an intricate chase through the claustrophobic streets of Shenyang’s red light district, a mine blown to rubble, and a slow-motion sword fight—make this film buzz. And Kyung-gu’s tainted performance is causing it to take flight.