‘Call Her King’
Stream it on BET+.
Though Jaeda King (Naturi Naughton) practices martial arts, she isn’t your prototypical hero. The married mother is a judge, and she’s presiding over the biggest case of her career. Despite his pleas of innocence, Sean Samuels (Jason Mitchell) has already been convicted of murder and his sentencing is imminent. However, Sean’s brother, Gabriel (Lance Gross), isn’t waiting for the outcome. Armed with a fleet of gunmen, Gabriel, a.k.a. Black Caesar, storms the courthouse to spring Sean. And Jaeda — let’s call her King — uses more than her gavel to fight back.
King winds through the baddies with the prowess of Foxy Brown and the confidence of Shaft. But the director Wes Miller’s film is also an origin story of sorts. King’s fight isn’t only with Black Caesar and his crew, but also with the broken justice system itself, and the way it both targets Black people and pits them against one another. Along the way, the nimble Naughton announces herself as a bona fide action star.
‘Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman’
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Dreamlike and visually expressive, this film by the Chinese writer-director Yang Bingjia takes delight in exploring the formula associated with swordplay movies. It has the cool mythological man of few words: in this case, Blind Cheng (Xie Miao), a visually impaired bounty hunter. It has the innocent maiden: Ni Yan (Gao Weiman), a wine merchant in need of saving from the big bad, He Qufeng (Ben Liu). And just for added flavor, Lady Qin (Zhang Di), Blind Cheng’s unrequited love, acts as femme fatale.
“Eye for an Eye” would be entertaining even if it only relied on those tropes. But its delectable kills elevate it even higher. Take the torture scene where Blind Cheng plies a goon for answers not by beating him, but by tying the villain’s every limb to an elaborate array of sharpened liuqin strings. Another character endures the punishment of having arrows slowly pulled from her body. The culminating face-off between Blind Cheng and He Qufeng, a scene bathed in ethereal lighting — blinding white snow amid a pitch-black setting — gives this gore-and-guts film a rare, spellbindingly poetic quality.
Stream it on Tubi.
At first, the writer-director Julian Hampton’s film seems like a simple cop drama. Adhering to his wife’s wishes, the SWAT officer Charles Biddle (Devinair Mathis) retires to a seemingly safe line of work as a cameraman for a dogged investigative reporter. Their assignment turns deadly, however, when men in silver masks appear, leaving Biddle’s fate in the balance. Rucker (Leslie A. Jones), Biddle’s grief-stricken best friend, searches for answers. While the title might be a tiny giveaway, it’ll still be difficult to guess where “Fighting Olympus” goes next.
Similar to the Boots Riley film “Sorry to Bother You,” Hampton opts for an ingenious premise to critique white supremacy. This one involves a descent into hell, as well as encounters with dangerous gods and misunderstood demigods alike. Hampton works around the film’s low budget by creating compelling characters. Medusa (Haley Jackson), for instance, is a Black woman. The white Athena stole her child, and then rewrote history to portray Medusa’s Black hair as deadly and ugly. With Medusa’s help, Rucker fights off mask-wearing, gold-sniffing henchmen in a series of obstacles that make “Fighting Olympus” one of the year’s most original action flicks.
‘Night of the Assassin’
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Yi Nan (Shin Hyun-joon) was once Korea’s deadliest assassin. But heart problems ended his career, making him vulnerable to an unnamed spirit who wants him dead. Hunted and rendered a lonely pauper traveling the countryside in search of a mythical plant rumored to cure such ailments, he stumbles upon bandits attacking Seon Hong (Kim Min Kyung), a widowed tavern owner. He helps the woman; in return she offers him a job as a server. His peace in this quaint village is short-lived after he murders bandits who work for Yi Bang (Lee Moon-sik), an opium dealer, gang leader, government official, and all-around slimy guy.
In the writer-director Kwak Jeong-deok’s film, punchy comedy via harsh zooms gives way to kinetic fights as Yi Nan works to protect Seon Hong and her young son from terror. Kwak adds new flavors to swordplay scenes by mounting a camera on Shin for point-of-view shots. The result, particularly in the final battle, which features Yi Nan against so many men his heart might explode, is a ferocious whiplash of splayed, bloody bodies.
Stream it on Hulu.
From a nostalgic score with hints of a John Williams influence to the soft, kind lighting, “Supercell,” the director Herbert James Winterstern’s preposterous disaster flick, is in conversation with films from the 1990s like “Twister” and “Jurassic Park.” Using a journal that belonged to his deceased storm-chasing father, the teenage William (Daniel Diemer) leaves his mother (Anne Heche) for West Texas to find his Uncle Roy (Skeet Ulrich). Once reunited with his uncle, William hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps by building a radio capable of detecting storms (an unrealized invention previously taken up by his dad).
In the deep ensemble, Jordan Kristine Seamón plays William’s girlfriend Harper, while Alec Baldwin portrays the head of a tourist company who takes storm enthusiasts as close to danger as possible. Rather than living a dream, William finds his disgraced Uncle Roy reduced to the nightmare of driving for Baldwin’s outfit. This big, dumb disaster flick not only features mega-tornadoes as the background to William’s coming-of-age, but it also ends on one of the funniest deaths ever in a film that manages to balance family ache with a wide adventurous canvas.