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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Five action movies to stream now


From left, Kent Tsai, Berant Zhu, and Edison Song in “Bad Education: Director’s Cut.”

This month’s picks include devious teen mayhem, female superhero stories, anticapitalist anarchy and more.



‘Bad Education: Director’s Cut’


Kai Ko’s transgressive boys-will-be-boys adventure is tonally uneasy and deliciously pulp. Fresh off their high school graduation, three friends — Wang (Kent Tsai), Han (Edison Song), and Chang (Berant Zhu) — dare each other to share their deepest, darkest secrets. Chang confesses to a rape, while Han shares a murder he committed for fun. The nerdy Wang sheepishly admits to cheating on a test. As a prank, the two friends goad Wang to commit an actual crime: Wang smashes a bottle across a gangster’s head. What was meant to be a memorable night becomes an evening of doom.


Though the primary action witnesses the trio hijacking a taxi, Ko’s film is also a test of friendship. In scenes bathed in grisly red hues, these once close buddies turn on each other, culminating in an ending where each must decide if he will sacrifice a piece of himself to save the other. (Stream it on Netflix.)



‘Jawan’


This anarchist epic from Indian filmmaker Atlee takes a huge swing at capitalism. It begins with unbelievable panache: Vikram Rathore (Shah Rukh Khan) and a sextet of women prisoners commandeer a train holding its passengers, including the daughter of a political official, hostage. They blackmail the father, donating his money to impoverished farmers. The sequence not only brings Rathore into romantic contact with the lovely officer Narmada Rai (Nayanthara), but it’s also emblematic of the many stunts Rathore and his team pull to bring this vicious government to its knees.


“Jawan” boasts impressive scale, crafting unlikely set pieces (a shootout in a rundown country hospital and a bloody hanging in a women’s prison) for maximum political effect. Khan even pulls double duty, playing both Rathore and his father. The father-son duo work toward revenge for the death of Rathore’s mother at the hands of a gunrunner. Atlee somehow connects these two arcs (arms dealing and corruption) to offer a pro-democracy message in a jam-packed action vehicle. (Stream it on Netflix.)



‘Knuckle Girl’


Though her sister’s body was found in an apparent car explosion, Ran (Ayaka Miyoshi), a boxer, believes she’s still alive. All signs point to the menacing gangster Haruki (Hideaki Ito), who controls both the corrupt police force and a gladiatorial venue where brawlers fight to the death. Ran hopes that by agreeing to fight in Haruki’s arena, she’ll locate her sister.


Adapted from the same-tilted webtoon, Korean director Chang’s “Knuckle Girl” is a ruthless origin story nestled in a gnarly revenge flick. Ran enlists the help of a tech genius (Kanata Hosoda) and a former flame (Goki Maeda) before employing unconventional training methods, such as lifting tires on her back and learning to work with brass knuckles. The hard work ramps viewers toward Ran’s gladiatorial fights which are shot in fluid, long takes that move with lateral and vertical precision. At one point, the camera captures a fight happening on three levels by simply craning up past each brawl. The sequence is a highlight of the film’s exceptional, multidimensional choreography. (Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.)



‘Lion-Girl’


From the first shot, writer-director Kurando Mitsutake’s “Lion-Girl,” a sci-fi, postapocalyptic, Blaxploitation-stained superhero fantasy, aims to shock. It begins with a nude Lion-Girl (Tori Griffith) at a bathhouse confronted by mutated fighters known as Anoroc.


In 2045, a wave of meteorites nearly obliterated humanity. Earth’s few survivors gathered in Japan and formed a new totalitarian government. The less fortunate encountered the noxious fumes of the meteorite debris, which transformed them into man-hungry mutants. Lion-Girl is an Anoroc passing as human, tasked with protecting people from the murderous, evolved species.


With its ample nudity and its vintage film stock appearance, the movie has a grindhouse feel that bubbles over into gonzo territory. A character using a special move called “breast flame” is the least weird occurrence in “Lion-Girl.” Exploding heads and copious gore are the finishing touches on a proudly silly action flick that’s unlike anything I’ve seen this year. (Rent or buy on most major platforms.)



‘Sri Asih’


Similar to “Lion-Girl” and “Knuckle Girl,” Indonesian director Upi’s “Sri Asih” is a superhero origin story that takes a different angle on the genre. The film follows Alana (Pevita Pearce), who was born during the volcano eruption that would claim her parents’ lives. That day, however, she gained special powers triggered by her rage. As an adult, she channels that fury into her mixed martial arts fighting. But when a demonic gangster (Surya Saputra), harms her adoptive mother after Alana refuses to take a dive, Alana not only snaps into action but she also learns to channel her fury for good. She is told by a secret society about a hero, “Sri Asih,” the country’s protector, whose spirit Alana carries.


Mixing “Constantine” and “Wonder Woman,” Upi’s film has the kind of clean, open blending of choreography and visual effects that Marvel hasn’t quite nailed. Even when Alana faces the black-clad big bad, the confrontation isn’t cartoonish. Instead, it’s sleek, well-designed and expertly shot for a surprisingly grounded effect in this inventive superhero flick. (Rent or buy on most major platforms.)

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