The Protégé [AKA The Asset] (2021, dir. Martin Campbell)

An assassin tracks those who killed her mentor. While the script gets bogged down in backstory and complications, there’s a sense of unfussy confidence in the direction, action choreography, editing, and stuntwork that makes this a worthwhile watch. A decent – if to-type – cast helps. Some corners cut in production design don’t help.

Here’s the trailer.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021, dir. Destin Daniel Cretton)

The son of an immortal warlord must face his father. Patchy and nigh-plotless superhero action-adventure origin story, drawing on allsorts. Incidental pleasures aplenty (a poster for Walter Hill’s The Warriors) but this is for fans of the character and Marvel completists only. Still, some fun details are to be found, and there’s one gleeful supporting performance.

Here’s the trailer.

400 Bullets (2020, dir. Tom Paton)

Two soldiers protect a case of missile chips against superior opposition. OK low-budget military actioner that doesn’t quite maximise its potential to do Assault On Precinct 13 in Afghanistan. Still, there’s some promise in the handling of limited resources, and there’s more to come from the talented Jean-Paul Ly.

Here’s the trailer.

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021, dir. Sion Sono)

A captured bank robber is forced to retrieve a kidnapped woman for a gang boss. A post-apocalyptic samurai/western hybrid, using a Mad Max/Escape from New York structure for all kinds of digressions. It doesn’t all work (the script is the culprit here), but it looks great in a neon Terry Gilliam kinda way, and everyone seems to be having fun.

Here’s the trailer.

The Paper Tigers (2020, dir. Tran Quoc Bao)

Three middle-aged former martial arts students reunite to investigate the killing of their mentor. Straightforward but charming low-budget comedy with action elements: clearly a labour of love, there’s plenty to appreciate here, so the prospect of more from this writer-director is an appealing one.

Here’s the trailer.

Gunpowder Milkshake (2021, dir. Navot Papushado)

A hitwoman becomes embroiled in an escalating series of double-crosses when a job goes awry. Stylised John Wick-ish action comedy squandering an excellent cast on a cliched script, and on a baffling series of distancing techniques rendering the flick good-looking (and sounding) but empty, flat and uninvolving.

Here’s the trailer.

Kate (2021, dir. Cedric Nicolas-Troyan)

A Tokyo-based assassin has 24 hours to get revenge on the yakuza chief who fatally poisoned her. The 1940s noir D.O.A., basically, as a stylised action movie. Okay as far as it goes, though the rote script and a fetishized approach to Japanese pop culture detracts from Mary Elizabeth Winstead badassery and intermittently-terrific action choreography.

Here’s the trailer.

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974, dir. Roy Ward Baker [and Chang Cheh])

In 1904 China, a visiting Van Helsing helps combat a Dracula-led vampiric uprising. The last pic of the Hammer cycle innovates through genre mash-up (and a deal with Shaw Brothers). It’s messy, but fun: martial arts showcasing, twists on undead lore, plus some location spectacle all helps.

Here’s the trailer.

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021, dir. Don Hall & Carlos López Estrada, with Paul Briggs and John Ripa)

A warrior princess embarks on a quest to unite five fractured kingdoms and repel their collective threat. A very straightforward fantasy drawing on South East Asian design and story influences. Some pleasures in the incidentals, but this is secondhand tick-box monomyth stuff throughout.

Here’s the trailer.

Man of Tai Chi (2013, dir. Keanu Reeves)

A Tai Chi student is lured into an underground fighting circuit. And a very solid martial arts actioner this is too. As old-school as you like, with plenty of well-choreographed fighting and wirework, and a sense of respect for both the subgenre and the traditions it relates to.

Here’s the trailer.