December 6, 2021 (NYC)–Top 5 Martial Arts Films of 2022. 2022 was another great year for Martial Arts movies. The globalization of entertainment combined with the multitude of outlets for viewing and streaming martial arts movies is a benefit to martial arts movies fans. We have had a chance to seen many of the movies released this year; however, if there was a great martial arts movie we missed please be sure to let us know. We would be happy to screen and review it. Here is our list of the Top 5 Martial Arts films of 2022:
#5: Bullet Train– This David Leitch directed rollercoaster ride stars Brad Pitt in a high budget, action film filled with wild characters, special effects, and a fast paced fight choreography that is an, all around, fun time. For martial arts fans, and fans of Japanese cinema, there is a lot to take note of; however, I think the fight choreography and cinematography was geared more for a general audience. So in that regard, it was not all we had hoped it would be.
#4: The Gray Man– This is James Bond meets John Wick. The Russo brothers spy, action thriller is about a former criminal, turned CIA assassin, who ends up as the Agency’s target. Gosling is very good as the lead, although there are times his fights leave something to be desired. Billy Bob Thornton and Ana De’Armas are fun in this. Great Anchors. Chris Evans is somewhat cartoonish as the villain, but fun. The action and adventure are great. The visuals are exciting. The fight sequences are not up to our standard for top notch martial arts, but better than most. The issue is that the characters and dialogue are a little over the top, and you can’t tell if it is intentional or pointed. It is clear how John Wick has impacted every action film since, but none are quite as good (except, maybe, NOBODY). All in all we really liked it. Shout out to Netflix for this one.
#3: The Round Up-This sequel to The Outlaws is a gripping and violent police action film. Don Lee is one of South Korea’s great stars and every movie he is in has been top notch. This is no exception. Returning as the beloved Detective Ma, he becomes embroiled in the pursuit of a kidnapper and killer of South Korean, wealthy tourists in Vietnam. His brand of Dirty Harry style justice is wonderful to be a part. Lee and the supporting cast of police are great and, despite their flaws, are fun to watch. The villains are fierce, violent, and talented in the art of death and weapons. There is an appropriate use of comedic timing in this violent and dramatic action film. The Direction and cinematography are as good as anything you will find in Hollywood today. I can’t wait for the 3rd installment of the Crime City trilogy.
#2: Baby Assassins–Baby Assassins is Fast and Fun! Baby Assassins is the latest release from Well Go USA Entertainment to come out of the Japanese market and it is both fast and fun. This well paced and well Directed action comedy can not help but engage you from the opening scene.
Akari Takaishi and Saori Izawa are delightful as the high young assassins who are faced with trying to balance “normal” lives with their careers as professional assassins. Their chemistry on screen with each other, and the rest of the cast make for some memorable and enjoyable moments as they recognize they may be unfit for anything other than professional “hits”.
The film does a terrific job of walking the tightrope between being funny and outrageous without being silly. It also does a fantastic job of integrating martial arts action and gun play into the film. Saori Izawa clearly has some Taekwondo training in her pedigree, and her fight scenes are interesting and well choreographed.
#1: Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday– Scott Adkins returns to the big screen in Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday. This action packed, comedic romp, is a sequel to the 2018 cult classic, Accident Man.
Adkins is the star of such films as Avengement, Savage Dog, The Debt Collector series, Legacy of Lies, and, the upcoming, John Wick 4. Scott Adkins is always fun to watch, and he is a masterful martial artist. Adkins and the stunt team have, clearly, elevated the level of action and fight choreography over this film’s predecessor. This was not an easy task considering the original contains one of the best “one on one” fight scenes in martial arts cinema, between Adkins and Amy Johnston. In Hitman’s Holiday they have managed to make each of the plethora of fights unique and engaging; that is no small accomplishment.
The supporting cast, old and new, is terrific. Ray Stevenson reprises his role as Adkins’ surrogate father, while Perry Benson’s role in this one is more substantial than his part in Accident Man. Aside from Adkins they are the only cast members to survive the original film. The remainder of the cast is fresh to this installment.
The series of assassin fights are among the most well choreographed and well filmed you will see. Without giving away any spoilers, the “Poco the Clown” fight, with Beau Fowler, is among the most original and engaging martial arts fight scenes ever filmed. There is no shortage of action and the fighting is not hampered by “shaky cam”, poor cinematography, or noticeable stunt doubles. This is fight choreography and execution in its highest form. Blood Hunters’ Sarah Chang is a dynamic and exciting addition to the cast. The scenes between her and Adkins pay homage to the classic, and memorable, Peter Sellers-Burt Kwouk brawls of The Pink Panther films of the 1960’s. The scenes they share are some of the film’s highlights, and they will have the viewer longing for more of this unusual pairing. Adkins’ Accident Man Sequel is a Blast
The film is, at its core, a martial arts action film. From the first moment until the last it is a thrill ride of some of the best and most unique fight scenes you could pack into 96 minutes. However, the filmmakers manage to strike the right balance between action and comedy. The scenes featuring George Fouracres, the impetus for the film’s chaos, hit their mark every time.
The Kirby Brothers do an outstanding job at the helm of the sequel. Their Direction and cinematography are on point, and, perhaps, more suited to the continuous action and fighting which defines Hitman’s Holiday. The film has a unique and distinctive look. While it is violent, it is not dark. While this is not a high budget film by today’s standards, you can not tell from the look of it. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Even the soundtrack works really well in this one.
This one is worth seeing. It is really a good time.
Worth Mentioning From 2021 (But After our 2021 List)
One Shot– Very original execution of a modern western type story. Scott Adkins leads a mission to a Guantanamo type military prison to transfer a prisoner to Washington DC to stop an imminent terrorist attack. The transfer is disrupted by a gang of terrorists invade the island to capture the prisoner. Ryan Phillipe is adequate. Adkins is very good. Ashley Greene is also uncharacteristically good as the agent sent to retrieve the prisoner. The film is shot in one continuous shot from start to finish. This could have been a disaster if not executed well; however this one is very well done. It is fast paced and gripping throughout. The visuals are unsettling at points but they fit the film. It may be lower budget but it doesn’t feel like it, nor does it look like it. It is very watchable.
-by Marc Zirogiannis
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