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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

5 action movies to stream now



Reza Rahadian, left, and Shenina Cinnamon in “24 Hours with Gaspar.” (Netflix)

By Robert Daniels


This month’s picks include brotherly revenge, ghoulish specters and more.



‘24 Hours with Gaspar’


A taut revenge action fable, Indonesian director Yosep Anggi Noen’s “24 Hours with Gaspar” features scintillating choreography. For years Gaspar (Reza Rahadian) has been searching for his childhood best friend, Kirana (Shofia Shireen), who was kidnapped and sold by her sex-trafficking father, Wan Ali (Iswadi Pratama). To find answers, Gaspar, a detective, works with a fight club owner named Agnes (Shenina Cinnamon), a strategy that works well until the device that helps Gaspar’s heart function is broken in an electrifying fight, eloquently lit to capture the silhouettes of limber bodies swinging to deadly effect. Now he has only 24 hours to live.

The second half of Noen’s film is a heist flick: Gaspar cobbles together an unlikely team to rob Wan Ali’s jewelry store where a legendary black box capable of granting any wish is rumored to reside. The film culminates in a rugged all-out brawl at a fight club, which is crosscut with Gaspar confronting Wan Ali in a fight that’s emblematic of the film’s existential poeticism. (Stream it on Netflix.)



‘Anti-Drug Operation’


Spanning 71 minutes, “Anti-Drug Operation,” by Chinese director Yan Yuchao, packs a big punch in a small package. After the sudden murder of their mother, two young brothers take separate paths: One becomes the drug-busting cop Captain Lin (Li Bin); the other, Lin Lang (Lang Feng), becomes a drug lord. The plot follows the brothers as adults, as Captain Lin tries to save his sibling before the dangerous gangster Zhong Hu (Xiao Mi) — the man who killed their mother — murders him.

Despite their different moral codes, the brothers share a bond that eventually puts both in danger, leading to a major raid. Slowed to the speed of molasses, a scene at a rural narcotics lab becomes a site for high drama. Yan shoots oblique angles that accentuate the fighting power of Captain Lin and Lin Lang to devastating effect. (Stream it on Hi-Yah!)



‘Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman’


The grandson of a murdered shaman, Dr. Cheon (Gang Dong-won) has spent years searching for the evil sorcerer Beom-cheon (Huh Joon-ho) who not only took his grandfather’s life, but also murdered Dr. Cheon’s brother. A magical spell keeps the killer chained inside a cave where his cult does his bidding. With an assistant, In-bae (Lee Dong-hwi), Dr. Cheon travels to a remote village to exorcise the younger sister of Yoo-kyung (Esom), a woman capable of seeing spirits. When it becomes clear that Beom-cheon is behind the possession, Dr. Cheon teams up with Yoo-kyung to finally take revenge.

Korean director Kim Seong-sik’s “Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman” is an arresting action noir, whose highly observant protagonist is an intriguing blend of Constantine and Sherlock Holmes. The action is wonderfully melded with the film’s ghost story elements. The high point occurs when Dr. Cheon battles Beom-cheon’s magic in a sword fight set to a soaring electric guitar score that appears to defy the gravitational rules of the real world. (Rent or buy on most major platforms.)



‘One-Percent Warrior’


I’m not sure I’ve seen an action film quite like Japanese writer/director Yudai Yamaguchi’s meta take on the genre. “One-Percent Warrior” follows Toshiro Takuma (Tak Sakaguchi), a previously famous action star who, 10 years ago, proclaimed he would make the realest action movie ever. With his career now on life support, he’s venturing with his apprentice, Akira (Sho Aoyagi), to an abandoned zinc factory on a secluded island to finally shoot his film. There he frees Maria (Rumika Fukuda), a girl held hostage by a gang searching for two tons of cocaine hidden by her father, who is now dead.

For most people, this scenario would be a nightmare. But for Toshiro, it’s a dream come true. He finally gets to play the hero again by practicing his brand of martial arts. Through every scene Yamaguchi trusts his actors to execute his choreography, relying on fluid movements, open compositions and long takes that fulfill Toshiro’s desire for authentic action. (Rent or buy on most major platforms.)



‘The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon’


Sometimes it feels good to root for a bad guy. For four years, the feared hit man Chen Kui-lin (Ethan Juan) has been in hiding after murdering an underworld boss. Two events force him back into the limelight: his grandmother’s death and his terminal cancer diagnosis. At first, he considers turning himself in. Then he notices he’s only the third-most wanted man in Taiwan. Wanting to be remembered forever, he departs on a journey to murder the other two wanted men.

Chen is a captivating killer, mostly through Juan’s kinetic acting: With every assassination, Juan’s eyes widen, and his fierce smile become more psychotic. That heightened angst makes Kui-lin’s desire for a peaceful life more aching, and his fury at seeing that potential life dispelled more destructive. Even when he carries out a bloody massacre, you really can’t blame him. He’s too broken to be despised. (Stream it on Netflix.)


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