For action fans seeking out new movies on streaming, there are plenty of car chases, explosions and fist fights to sift through. We help by providing some streaming highlights.
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These days cinematic knockoffs of the “John Wick” franchise litter the action landscape. It’s difficult not to roll your eyes when another one enters the fray. But the writer-director Kirk Caouette’s microbudget “American Badger,” a stylistic full-frontal assault on the senses, charts a distinct path. Caouette stars as a lonely assassin, code-named Badger, holed up with his dog in a low-rent motel and still mourning the death of his wife from cancer.
The Badger isn’t your typical silent killer. He leaves a mess. The fight sequences, particularly one in a neon nightclub, derives vigor from oblique angles, a kinetic shaky cam, and slow-motion effects. His murders are vicious in their brutality and shocking in their bloodiness. It’s a surprise, then, when this morose assassin falls in love with an emotionally damaged sex worker named Velvet (Andrea Stefancikova). It’s the contours of vulnerability Caouette discovers in this romance, through his measured performance, that I found so fascinating. He steers this film away from pastiche. “American Badger” is its own animal.
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Mike Wade (Scott Adkins) is an ex-fighter who didn’t quite possess the killer instinct to become a champion. He finds himself drifting to a temp job scavenging for scrap metal in an abandoned hospital. Ericson (Dolph Lundgren), a distraught prison guard, needs $400,000 to get his daughter a life-extending transplant. In return for protection, an inmate clues in Ericson to a stockpile of money hidden underneath the hospital. A brutal drug dealer (Robert Berlin) is in pursuit of the money, too. The three compete to recover the loot before the building is detonated.
Directed by Lundgren, “Castle Falls” loops a heist flick setup through a buddy action frame as Wade and Ericson serendipitously become partners, making for a charming odd couple. While the open corridors of the clinic allow for simple, effective set pieces for the film’s unrestrained gunfights, the leading men are the draw: Adkins’s moodiness reflects a down-on-his-luck loner. Lundgren takes pleasure in stretching his dramatic muscles. Watching their easy chemistry intertwine is worth the price of admission.
Jens (Simon Sears) and Mike (Jacob Hauberg Lohmann) are temperamentally disparate cops. Jens appears squeaky clean while Mike lives on the verge of rage. The pair, nevertheless, do share one commonality: They were present the night their colleagues sent a young Muslim teenager to the hospital. When an already oppressed Danish neighborhood learns of the boy’s death, everyone in the projects of Svalegarden turn against the patrolling Jens and Mike.
Bearing similarities to the director Ladj Ly’s cop drama “Les Misérables,” “Enforcement” from the writer-directors Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Olholm is a cop action film with deep sociopolitical themes. While Jens would like to think he’s different from Mike, he doesn’t stop his partner from harassing Amos (Tarek Zayat), a teenager who once played on the police youth soccer team. Jens also refuses to provide the testimony that’ll put Mike behind bars for police brutality.
In “Enforcement” there are no good cops, especially for the rightly fed-up Muslim community. Their neighborhood becomes a storm of Molotov cocktails and marauding bands of vigilantes looking for any officers to punish. This is a film that thoughtfully dismisses the phrase “It’s just a few bad apples.”
The final film from the Hong Kong director Benny Chan (“New Police Story”), who died in 2020, “Raging Fire” stars Donnie Yen as an upright police detective, Officer Cheung. The righteous investigator has a pregnant ballerina wife (Qin Lan) and is rebelling against corrupt leaders ordering him to drop charges against an influential associate. They are minor problems compared with the man hunting him, his former protégé, Yau (a tragic Nicholas Tse), who is fresh out of jail and looking for revenge against his onetime mentor.
It’s a simple premise that gleefully veers to the morally illogical. But it’s the exhilarating fight choreography that’s the appeal here. In this throwback to the halcyon days of Hong Kong action cinema, Yen gracefully moves through large-scale set pieces with muscular precision. The film’s high-water mark, shot with a spellbinding fluidity in a housing project, witnesses Yen’s balletic body jumping, swinging and careening through an entire neighborhood of hoodlums. It’s the kind of propulsive action modern movies are woefully missing today.
‘Secret Magic Control Agency’
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Three days before the king (Marc Thompson) will celebrate his birthday, he’s kidnapped by the witch Ilvira (Erica Schroeder), who uses black magic to create monsters made of spaghetti and rainbow-colored macarons. To find the monarch, the government enlists the Secret Magic Control Agency, a band of high-tech spies governing all the magicians and the use of potions and spells in the kingdom. But after their best agent, Gretel (Sylvana Joyce), follows a false lead, she turns to Hansel (Nicholas Corda), her charlatan brother and the self-proclaimed “greatest wizard in the kingdom,” for help.
A fun reimagining of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale from the director Aleksey Tsitsilin, the animated adventure “Secret Magic Control Agency” follows a buddy cop formula teaming the strait-laced professional with a street-smart, buffoonish partner. The difference here is that Hansel and Gretel are estranged siblings using this case to patch up their relationship. The rich, vibrant animation is complemented by lighthearted comedy; a couple of mischievous cupcakes recall the minions. And with its tender energy, this is, at its best, a dark, whimsical tale to help young siblings learn how to get along.