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.
I love inventive microbudget films. It’s rarer to discover these treats in the action genre, since the form often requires higher production values. But “Agent Revelation,” from the writer-director Derek Ting, manages to deliver big thrills on a smaller scale.
Ting also stars in this high-concept sci-fi movie as Jim Yung, a C.I.A. reject infected by an alien-made biological weapon: a red dust known as the Ash. While usually deadly to humans, the Ash instead gives Jim heightened reflexes and strength. When Dr. Victoria Jansen (Carole Weyers), the head of a secret underground military installation, hears of Jim’s survival, she recruits him for testing, pushing him through dangerous exercises. These claustrophobic battles featuring tactical movements through mazes provide the film’s biggest action moments.
But the smart world building is equally impressive. Jim comes under the watchful eye of the base’s rich benefactor, Alastair (Michael Dorn), the Morpheus to Jim’s Neo. Alastair teaches Jim how to harness the energy of his powers to wield against the invading aliens. A cross between “The Matrix” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “Agent Revelation” places grand sci-fi imagination into a modest package.
Since the premiere of “Jaws” in 1975 made sharks a six-letter scare, the toothy predators remain a cinematic go-to for easy frights and outsized action. “Great White,” an Australian-set flick from the director Martin Wilson, follows in the footsteps of “Deep Blue Sea” and “The Meg” to deliver hair-raising survivalist set pieces.
The financially submerged couple Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko) and Kaz (Katrina Bowden) provide private airplane tours to travelers. Joji (Tim Kano) and Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi), an affluent couple, employ the guides and their cook Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) to transport them to an isolated atoll. Then, the menacing title character disables their plane, leaving them adrift in a raft. To pull through, the stranded humans engage in wild sea battles with the unrelenting shark, leading to an abundance of over-the-top defense methods involving weaponized paddles and flares against a sharp set of pearly whites. After watching “Great White,” it’s still not safe to go back in the water.
‘Her Name Was Jo’
If you turned Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” into a road movie, you might end up with something like the writer-director Joe Duca’s intimate coming-of-age adventure trek “Her Name Was Jo.” The 10-year-old title character (Mary Cate Williams) lives along the Shenandoah River with her abusive, drug-addled stepfather. She dreams of one day traveling to Los Angeles to find her real dad, a folk singer whose records she often listens to for comfort.
When her stepfather overdoses, Jo decides to take her best friend Selma (Elisa Duca) cross country in search of the singer. Along the way the pair steal a car, are held hostage by abusive men, help a pregnant woman deliver her baby and shoot their way through every hurdle. Closer to a drama than a big action or adventure spectacle, “Her Name Was Jo” is given a tragic edge through a heart-pounding score melded with touching folk ballads.
For audiences well-versed in gangland films, the South Korean writer-director Park Hoon-jung’s “Night in Paradise” may offer few surprises. Rather, the simple mob thriller gives blood-soaked comfort in its familiarity. Park Tae-goo (Um Tae-goo) is a brash enforcer to the suave crime lord Mr. Yang (Park Ho-san). After the assassinations of Park’s half sister and niece, he is convinced that the hit was placed by a rival kingpin in the Bukseong clan, causing Park to murder that mob boss with the savagery of Viggo Mortensen’s tough guy in “Eastern Promises.”
Park runs away to the tiny island of Jeju to hide, where he forms a platonic bond with the terminally ill Jae-yeon (Jeon Yeo-been). The stoic companions navigate a huge, bloody power grab between Yang and the merciless new Bukseong leader, Chief Ma (Cha Seung-won), as Park becomes their shared scapegoat.
The film’s director takes great pleasure in carnage. An extravagant barnyard shootout leads to jets of blood bathing the screen, and later, there’s a gory one-on-20 brawl involving a car key. Vicious knife fights likewise turn bath houses into slaughterhouses. And all are captured with a clean, steady hand, allowing viewers, with a gleeful smile, to marvel at the unrepentant brutality.
‘Riders of Justice’
When you first see the buzz cut-sporting, salt-and-pepper bearded Mads Mikkelsen as Markus, a Danish soldier stationed in Afghanistan, you assume Anders Thomas Jensen’s “Riders of Justice” will solely offer high-octane action. The death of Markus’s wife from a train bombing, however, adds a deep, unexpected heart to this revenge flick.
Now a single dad to his daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), the stoic Markus must punish those who carried out the attack and grapple with his repressed anguish. Jansen explores how grief leads a person to search for answers in the unanswerable. It’s that quest that makes Markus susceptible to a theory by two earnest scientists (Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Lars Brygmann) and a computer whiz (Nicholas Bro) that the bombing was perpetrated by a gang to silence a witness.
Mikkelsen gives a well-shaped performance by adding exterior emotional textures to a character whose inner turmoil makes him prone to raging outbursts. His agile acting makes “Riders of Justice” a singularly humanist action film.