After its first, and so far only, season Netflix announced that Wu Assassins would be getting a sequel in the form of a stand-alone movie. And now just about a year from that announcement, Fistful of Vengeance has arrived. Reuniting the show’s three leads Kai (Iko Uwais, The Raid 2, Man of Tai Chi), Lu Xin (Lewis Tan, Mortal Kombat, Into the Badlands) and Tommy (Lawrence Kao, Silver Lake, A.I. Tales).
Fistful of Vengeance opens with a fight against a supernatural creature in a Bangkok nightclub. At some point between the end of the series and now someone, or more accurately something, killed Tommy’s sister Jenny and the trail has led them here and to Ku An Qi (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Ghost Coins, Only God Forgives) a powerful entity that has used her powers to seize control of the city’s underworld.
Fistful of Vengeance was directed by Roel Reiné who directed two episodes of Wu Assassins as well as a long string of films that includes Hard Target 2, Redbad and Death Race: Inferno. The film’s co-writers Yalun Tu and Cameron Litvack also wrote for the show. The result is that Fistful of Vengeance frequently feels like a longer, and bloodier, episode of the show.
And it is surprisingly bloody. The film’s first major action setpiece, a brawl through the corridors of a hotel meant to evoke memories of Uwaias’ work in The Raid, features dismembered bodies, a graphic bullet through the head and some bloody work with a fire axe. A later fight at an outdoor food market allows all kinds of sharp objects to come into play once everyone runs out of bullets.
Apart from the three leads Zan Hui (JuJu Chan Szeto, Jiu Jitsu, Savage Dog) also makes a return appearance in Fistful of Vengeance. And, along with Ku An Qi we get several other new characters, William Pan (Jason Tobin, F9: The Fast Saga, Pound of Flesh) a mysterious billionaire with a connection to Ku, Preeya (Francesca Corney) a woman out of Tommy’s and Adaku (Pearl Thusi, The Scorpion King: Book of Souls, Tremors 5: Bloodlines) an Interpol agent who has some history with Lu.
If all of this sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry. There’s enough information given in the opening scenes to catch up anyone who’s not familiar with the show. From there, things rarely slow down long enough for it to matter. Fistful of Vengeance delivers all manner of fights and chases in the name of keeping a powerful artifact out of the wrong hands. And that’s all you have to know.
The film makes great use of the many sides of Thailand to stage its action scenes. From the opening scenes in the nightclub and hotel, chases through the city’s streets and canals and later scenes in temples and an abandoned factory, Fistful of Vengeance avoids the limited locations and repetitious scenes so many of these films fall into. It’s obvious this wasn’t looked at as a cheap cash-in on the show and it was given a decent budget and crew.
On the minus side, the constant use of songs rather than a proper score got on my nerves. I don’t have a problem with it when used in moderation but well over half the film has somebody singing or rapping in the background. And while most of the effects were practical and quite good, the usual animated blood spray takes away from several scenes’ effectiveness. Some viewers may be unhappy that Kun Zi doesn’t make an appearance, but as much as I like Mark Dacascos I always found his character out of place in the show, so that was actually a plus to me.
Overall though there’s a lot to like about Fistful of Vengeance and not a lot to complain about. It’s a fast-paced and bloody supernatural action film. And while it is a stand-alone film with a definitive ending, it doesn’t close the door on another film if the demand is there.
Fistful of Vengeance makes its debut on Netflix on February 17th.