John Wick: Chapter 3
If any film was guaranteed a spot on this list — and guaranteed it will still make the cut by the year-end — it’s a new John Wick movie. Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski once again up the ante when it comes carnage, mayhem, beauty, and world-building, and it’s a magical sight to behold. Guns, cars, and fisticuffs are still the rage, but the film adds in some strikingly choreographed dog action as well. That’s right, the dogs finally get to kick some ass too.
Read our review here — currently in theaters.
Master Z: Ip Man Legacy
Donnie Yen’s Ip Man trilogy is already one hell of an action franchise — and there’s a part four heading our way soon — but this unexpected spin-off following a character from the third film is every bit as entertaining. Jin Zhang delivers a compelling lead and is no slouch when it comes to his fighting skills, and the film spices things up with memorable appearances by Michelle Yeoh, Dave Bautista, and Tony Jaa. The film offers an unlikely arc of redemption for a character who was essentially a villain, and it makes for an affecting and thrilling turnaround.
Read our review here — currently available on streaming and arrives on Blu-ray/DVD on July 23rd.
An island prison with no hope of escape is the setting for this story about an ex-cop who orchestrates his own arrival there in search of vengeance, and while the story never gets more complicated than that the film delivers beautifully on the fighting front. Lead Bruce Khan is built like a Korean brick outhouse, but those muscles don’t get in the way of him giving fast and brutal beatdowns. Sure it’s a one-note affair, but that note is played so damn efficiently.
Read our review here — available on Netflix.
It would be an impossible (and damning) feat to gather the likes of Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, and Jeeja Yanin in your movie only to have it not be among the year’s best action films. Those first three take the lead of the title here as they stand up to some villainous mercenaries, and while too much of the action is focused on gunplay for my tastes — these people are phenomenal martial artists! put the guns down and fight! — the film delivers in the back half with some stellar face-offs between these ridiculously talented fighters.
Read our review here — currently available on streaming and Blu-ray/DVD.
Why Don’t you Just Die!
Sorry, Tarkovsky. Move over Eisenstein. I’ve just found my favorite Russian movie and it’s not even close. It’s simple and set in a single location, but it’s easily among the bloodiest, most energetic, and most blackly comic morality tales I’ve ever seen. Add in some real visual flair, even more blood, and a terrific mood-setting score/soundtrack and you have a terrifically fun time at the movies. The film finds immense energy despite everything unfolding in a cop’s apartment where he lives with his wife, and into which come his adult daughter, her sketchy boyfriend, and a fellow detective. They won’t all be leaving.