‘Call Her King’
Stream it on BET+.
Jaeda King, played by Naturi Naughton, may be skilled in martial arts, but she’s not your typical hero. As a married mother and a judge, she finds herself presiding over the biggest case of her career. Despite Sean Samuels’ (played by Jason Mitchell) pleas of innocence, he has already been convicted of murder and is facing imminent sentencing. However, Sean’s brother Gabriel, also known as Black Caesar (played by Lance Gross), is not willing to wait for the outcome. Armed with a group of gunmen, Gabriel storms the courthouse to free Sean. And Jaeda, or King as we can call her, uses more than just her gavel to fight back.
King battles her way through the enemies with the skill of Foxy Brown and the confidence of Shaft. But Wes Miller’s film also serves as an origin story. King’s fight is not only against Black Caesar and his crew, but also against the broken justice system itself and the way it targets and pits Black people against each other. Along the way, the talented Naughton proves herself as a genuine action star.
‘Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman’
Stream it on Hi-Yah!
Directed by Chinese writer-director Yang Bingjia, this visually expressive film delights in exploring the formula of swordplay movies. It features the cool and enigmatic Blind Cheng (played by Xie Miao), a visually impaired bounty hunter, and the innocent maiden Ni Yan (played by Gao Weiman), a wine merchant in need of saving from the villainous He Qufeng (played by Ben Liu). To add more flavor, Lady Qin (played by Zhang Di), Blind Cheng’s unrequited love, acts as a femme fatale.
“Eye for an Eye” would be entertaining enough with these tropes alone, but its creative and captivating kills elevate it even further. For example, there is a torture scene where Blind Cheng uses elaborate sharpened liuqin strings to extract information from a goon, rather than resorting to physical violence. Another character endures the slow removal of arrows from her body as punishment. The final showdown between Blind Cheng and He Qufeng, set in a blinding white snowscape amidst darkness, gives the film a rare, poetic quality.
Stream it on Tubi.
Initially appearing as a simple cop drama, “Fighting Olympus” takes an unexpected turn. Following his wife’s wishes, SWAT officer Charles Biddle (played by Devinair Mathis) retires and becomes a cameraman for an investigative reporter. However, their assignment turns deadly when men wearing silver masks threaten their lives. Biddle’s best friend Rucker (played by Leslie A. Jones) searches for answers. Despite its title possibly giving a clue, “Fighting Olympus” still manages to surprise viewers with its unfolding plot.
Similar to Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You,” writer-director Julian Hampton uses an ingenious premise in this film to critique white supremacy. The story takes a descent into hell, encountering dangerous gods and misunderstood demigods along the way. Despite its low budget, Hampton creates compelling characters and introduces new elements to the swordplay genre. Medusa (played by Haley Jackson), portrayed as a Black woman, joins forces with Rucker to fight off mask-wearing henchmen. “Fighting Olympus” stands out as one of the most original action films of the year.
‘Night of the Assassin’
Stream it on Hi-Yah!
Yi Nan (played by Shin Hyun-joon) was once Korea’s deadliest assassin, but heart problems have forced him into retirement. Now, an unnamed spirit is out to kill him. As he travels the countryside in search of a mythical plant to cure his ailment, he comes across bandits attacking Seon Hong (played by Kim Min Kyung), a widowed tavern owner. Yi Nan helps her, and in return, she offers him a job as a server. However, his peaceful existence is short-lived when he tangles with Yi Bang (played by Lee Moon-sik), an opium dealer, gang leader, government official, and all-around slimy character.
In writer-director Kwak Jeong-deok’s film, punchy comedy transitions into intense and kinetic fight scenes as Yi Nan tries to protect Seon Hong and her son from terror. Kwak adds new dimensions to the swordplay sequences by using point-of-view shots from mounted cameras on Yi Nan, particularly in the final battle where he faces numerous foes, threatening to overwhelm him. The result is a ferocious spectacle of blood and violence.
Stream it on Hulu.
“Supercell,” directed by Herbert James Winterstern, pays homage to 1990s disaster films like “Twister” and “Jurassic Park” with its nostalgic score and warm lighting. The film follows William (played by Daniel Diemer), a teenager who embarks on a journey to West Texas, armed with his deceased storm-chasing father’s journal. His goal is to find his Uncle Roy (played by Skeet Ulrich) and continue his father’s legacy by building a storm-detecting radio.
The ensemble cast includes Jordan Kristine Seamón as William’s girlfriend Harper and Alec Baldwin as the head of a tourist company that takes storm enthusiasts close to danger. However, instead of fulfilling his dreams, William discovers that his disgraced Uncle Roy now works for Baldwin’s company. “Supercell” combines the backdrop of mega-tornadoes with a coming-of-age story, striking a balance between family turmoil and thrilling adventures.
Overall, these films offer a diverse range of action-packed stories and unique takes on established genres. From tales of justice and vengeance to mythical swordplay and deadly assassins, each film showcases the talents of its cast and filmmakers in delivering thrilling and entertaining experiences.