‘Av: The Hunt’
Anyse (Billur Melis Koc), an unfaithful wife, is caught with her lover by her husband, Sedat (Ahmet Rifat Sungar). After Sedat executes the man, Anyse flees to her family in Turkey, only to discover they’ve disowned her. Relegated to hiding in the woods, she must kill Sedat and the men helping him if she hopes to live.
The simple survivalist story in the Turkish director Emre Akay’s “Av: The Hunt” bears a passing resemblance to Ted Kotcheff’s “First Blood” and Coralie Fargeat’s “Revenge.” As in those films, Anyse uses her resourcefulness to take down her adversaries one-by-one. Koc gives a palpable performance: The exhaustion visible on her face is as important as the dialogue. The lived-in physicality she brings furthers the film’s unrelenting energy. And yet, it’s the social commentary of a woman slashing and bashing her toxic patriarchal society with machetes and rifles that allows “Av: The Hunt” to be as politically relevant as it is gripping.
Typically, the best action movies have at least one great chase. The Spanish director Daniel Calparsoro’s pulse-pounding flick “Centaur” is nearly one long, continuous pursuit. Based on the French writer Jérémie Guez’s novel “Balancé Dans les Cordes,” the plot runs smoothly: Rafa (Àlex Monner), a promising professional motorcycle racer is close to signing with a major team. But Natalia (Begoña Vargas), the mother of his daughter, is in deep trouble: The police took from her a large stash of drugs belonging to Carlos (Édgar Vittorino), a ruthless gang leader, and Natalia must pay up.
To save her, Rafa makes a deal. Using his motorcycle, Rafa will smuggle Carlos’s narcotics past the cops. But he becomes addicted to the amphetamines the mobsters provide him so he can drive around the clock, threatening all of Rafa’s plans as he loses favor with the racing team. How can he hope to break free?
As the film answers that question, the cinematography by Josu Inchaustegui, using immersive mounted shots atop motorcycle windshields and long takes, is only matched in intensity by the acute soundscape of humming motors and slick pavements. Each chase, winding at high speeds down freeways, transforms “Centaur” from a familiar narrative of a good man mistakenly crossing the line into a visceral and technical achievement.
When Jimmy (Matthew Lawrence), traveling to the coast to scatter his deceased brother’s ashes, makes a pit stop at a gas station, he doesn’t know that the woman behind the counter, Natasha (Danielle C. Ryan), is an unflinching killer — until an assassin tries to murder her: In a single motion, she pulls out a shotgun and shoots the hit man dead. Natasha is on the run from her underworld ex-boyfriend, Ellis (Kevin Joy), and decides to escape with the all-too helpful Jimmy.
The director Shane Stanley’s sardonic road trip could solely be a manic-pixie-dream-girl story gone wrong — Natasha claims she suffers from multiple personality disorder — but the big fight scenes, relying on W.W.E.-style body slams, give this romantic action flick some muscle. As does Ask (Dawn Olivieri), the woman accompanying Ellis on his pursuit to capture Natasha. Olivieri brings a whip smart, femme fatale presence to this earnest film. During the final freakout, as Natasha mows through a legion of assassins, it’s Ask’s presence that gives “Double Threat” a bold combination of compassion and attitude.
‘Fistful of Vengeance’
A film sequel to the Netflix series “Wu Assassins,” Roel Reiné’s supernatural take, “Fistful of Vengeance,” thrives on big action beats. Kai (Iko Uwais), an inheritor of ancient magical powers, teams with Lu Xin (Lewis Tan) and Tommy (Lawrence Kao) in Bangkok to search for the murderer of Tommy’s sister Jenny. When the biotech billionaire William Pan (Jason Tobin), a descendant of Pangu, a godlike being now trapped in two talismans, approaches the team with the identity of Jenny’s killer, they think revenge could finally be theirs. But they soon discover William’s real intentions: He aims to conquer the world by reuniting the talismans and obtaining Pangu’s power.
“Fistful of Vengeance” offers the kind of large-scale entertainment you hope for from an action film where the absurd logic is secondary to the rowdy fights. Tight choreography captured in slow motion mixed with magical final moves, whereby Kai shoots lasers from his hands, gives this gleefully silly revenge story some equally beguiling crowd-pleasing appeal.
Robert (Sam Song Li) and William (Roy Huang) are disparate brothers trying to steer their family business after the death of their father. William wants to set aside their sibling rivalry by planning an audacious birthday prank for Robert: He hires a gaggle of goons led by Chad (Seth McTigue, also the film’s writer-director) to kidnap his brother. William’s plans go awry, however, when the gang really keep Robert and seek ransom. Now William risks losing everything if he hopes to set things right.
With “Take the Night,” McTigue crafts a visually daring game of suspense. The film’s opening shot, an enthralling one take, features the nervous criminals driving toward their target. The camera remains fixed on them as they leap from the car, tackle Robert to the ground and throw him in the trunk. Supporting these nerve-racking scenes is the theme of parents: Not only are the brothers missing their father, but the quiet migrant secretary of their family business, Melissa (Grace Serrano), pines to see her son again in Mexico. How do you fill the void left by a missing loved one? That personal layer mixed with the heist format makes McTigue’s thriller a potent and meditative adventure.