“Fistful of Vengeance” is Netflix’s feature length sequel to 2019’s “Wu Assassins”, a fun episodic series that featured some good Martial Arts action and showcased the supreme talents of Iko Uwais, (a man who should be a worldwide name and a huge box office star).
Written by Cameron Litvak, Jessica Chou, and Yalun Tu and directed by Roel Reiné, this is an almost nonstop extravaganza of guns, explosions, and Martial Arts mysticism.
The television show was at its best when it concentrated on the supreme skills of its cast, each of whom showed off their superior Martial Arts expertise. The action sequences were fun and well-choreographed. The direction wasn’t always as sharp as the action and the story (Uwais’s character Kai and his friends are pitted against the Wu Lords in a supernatural battle for this world) couldn’t always sustain itself over 10 episodes.
For this sequel, the screenplay lessens the fantasy elements, and the filmmakers don’t relay as heavily on CGI as they did in the series. The action is of the highest importance here and the production digs in with sharp commitment.
We find Kai (Uwais) Lu Xin (Lewis Tan), and Tommy Wah (Lawrence Kao) in Bangkok on a mission of revenge and mystery as they try to solve murder of Tommy’s sister. The trio have only one clue, the talisman found on her body.
After fighting “Jiangshi” (reanimated corpses from Chinese legend. Also known as “Hopping Vampires”), they discover the sinister plans of Ku An Qi (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam), a supernatural being trying to resurrect Pan Gu, the first man of Earth, to destroy then rebuild the world for her to rule.
The plot gets overloaded from there, as more twists and even more characters clog the narrative. The idea is fun, but Litvak, Chou, and Ty’s screenplay doesn’t know when to quit throwing extra plot points and new side characters at its audience until it becomes too much to care.
It’s a fun story that gets clogged up too often.
Taking a cue from Peter Hyams, Reiné is director and cinematographer, operating his own camera. Reiné concentrates on capturing his action from many angles, using every inch of his frame, and thankfully steers clear of the nemesis of any good action scene, the dreaded shaky cam. Our director wants his audience to experience every punch kick and acrobatic leap and that, we do!
The action is expertly choreographed and performed by true pros. Where Reiné falters (and falters in mind-numbing ways) is in his incessant use of Rap and Hip-Hop songs over every fight sequence and almost every single scene.
I am a fan of both good Rap and Hip-Hop music, but it’s use here is overblown, completely unnecessary, and the songs are simply awful.
While RZA’s “The Man with the Iron Fists” proved there can be a good blend of Rap and Martial Arts, what great action there is in this film gets buried in a barrage of “dance remixes” that all but kill the energy of the moment.
Everything in the film feels a lesser version of so many better works and plays like a generic (yet energy-filled) copy of the types of mystical Martial Arts pictures we have seen for almost 60 years.
Reiné’s film isn’t a total loss, but it is far from a win.
“Fistful of Vengeance” is a high-octane action film that fails to catch a real fire.
Fistful of Vengeance
Directed by Roel Reiné
Written by Cameron Litvak, Jessica Chou, and Yalun Tu
Starring Iko Uwais, Lewis Tan, Lawrence Kao, Pearl Thusi
TV-MA, 94 Minutes, Netflix/Flame Ventures/Living Films