Five action movies to stream now
By Robert Daniels
From angst-ridden military dads to the threat of doomsday cults, this month’s action picks push their heroes to the edge.
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Since even-keeled Jamie (Clayne Crawford), an Army veteran, returned home to New Orleans, times have been difficult: His daughter needs an operation. When his impulsive brother, Mic (Max Martini), approaches him about a bank robbery job, the financial gain becomes too much to ignore.
From its winding chase sequences to its immersive camera work, particularly the use of hand-helds, screenwriter and director William Kaufman’s “The Channel” is a brisk, white-knuckle crime flick.
The heist scene is the gripping centerpiece in a film about the bond held by brothers. It sees Mic and Jamie entering the bank with the perfect plan, but upon leaving they’re ambushed by the FBI. The ensuing shootout, laced together by editor Travis Medina’s riveting cuts, results in a mountain of bullets and the pair on the run. With the two people the pair betrayed hot on their heels, the brothers must find a way to keep the money, and their lives.
Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
More action parody than horror film, the hilarious, gory “Cult Hero,” from director Jesse Thomas Cook, features a character who’d feel at home in a cheesy 1980s B-movie. Double-gun-toting, sunglasses-wearing Dale Domazar (Ry Barrett) hosts a show called “Cult Buster” where he travels the country trying to uncover dangerous sects. But when an episode goes bad — resulting in the mass death of an entire clan — Dale loses his fame and money and winds up living in a musky trailer. It’s not until self-absorbed real estate agent Kallie Jones (Liv Collins) approaches him to spring her husband from a cult led by Master Jagori (Tony Burgess) that he sees a chance for a comeback.
Apart from the brawling sequences — Master Jagori repeatedly sends his followers to murder Kallie and Dale — what really makes “Cult Hero” stand out are the committed performances. Barrett’s sharp timing, cheesy appearance and oversize bravado recall Steven Seagal or Hulk Hogan, while Collins delivers inspired quips and sight gags. The film even has a bopping revivalist folk song that’ll keep your foot tapping as the body count climbs.
Rent or buy it on most major platforms.
This apocalyptic film from Eric McEver is visually rich. It recounts how a Japanese director decided to make a movie about his premonition that a cadre of old gods imprisoned at the center of Earth might one day return to annihilate humanity. He makes an anime to instruct the viewer how to defeat these beings. Not only did the film bomb — ending the director’s career — but the print became lost in a warehouse fire.
On the eve of the new millennium, somehow, nerdy Oklahomans Shawn Gunderson (Quinn Lord) and his best friend, Vik Kapoor (Ronak Gandhi), have found a copy of the film on tape. They watch the anime with Miki (Christina Higa), a Japanese transfer student. The lost movie ends up turning Shawn into Ultraman and Vik into a Kaiju. With Miki, they must defeat the awakening gods and the local cult trying to revive them.
What “Iké Boys” lacks in budget, it makes up for in ingenuity and spirit. When the big action sequences happen, McEver turns to vivid animation to fill in the blanks. The film’s lovably corny Kaiju costume recalls the Toho monster movies of the 1960s, and when the big emotional beats arrive, this tight, emotive cast delivers the theme of being yourself no matter what with aplomb.
Rent or buy on most major platforms.
This film, which, like “The Channel,” is about a veteran who’s in too deep, features Sam Worthington as widowed father Ryan Logan. A couple of years prior, Ryan’s pregnant wife died in a car crash, forcing Ryan to retire from the military to care for his son, Billy (Edward Carmody), who survived the accident. Now, Ryan’s job as a wine salesman barely brings in enough money to pay for his son’s schooling, and Billy continues to brush against the law, leading to him wrecking a rich lawyer’s car.
To earn some cash, Ryan turns to his old Army buddy Johnny (Matt Nable), who proposes they rob an apartment containing money that belongs to Johnny’s crime boss.
Nable also wrote and directed the film, which has sturdy action sequences, like a sharp shootout by Ryan and Johnny against the crime boss. But also, with themes like PTSD, grief and self-harm, the film thrives as an affecting, understated family drama, boosted by an unforgettable, tender performance by Worthington.
Stream it on Netflix.
Not all heroes are celebrated. We get that sense at the beginning of Michihito Fujii’s film. Scenes of a young boy named Yu watching a Noh production are intercut with his father preparing to set himself ablaze after killing an industrialist who was planning to move a waste management plant to the village. The factory still came.
Because of his father’s actions, the adult Yu (Ryusei Yokohama) is reviled around town. To pay down his mother’s gambling debt, he works tirelessly day and night burying toxic waste in landfills for the plant. When his childhood sweetheart Misaki (Haru Kuroki) returns to town wanting to start a relationship, the opportunity for a better life arises. But the past doesn’t die easily.
A taut crime film, “The Village” features big bad guys like the hateful Toru (Wataru Ichinose) and crummy industrialists using gangster tactics. But it’s Yu’s internal conflict, whether to become a whistle-blower or remain the plant’s well-compensated puppet, that allows the film’s ethical edge to deeply embed itself in the viewer.