Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, and Yayan Ruhian star in the film by Gareth Huw Evans

‘The Raid: Redemption’ – Extreme action on Netflix

Set almost entirely in an apartment building in the slums of Jakarta, the extreme action film The Raid: Redemption (Indonesia, 2011) has a reputation as one of the fiercest, most brutal crime thrillers around. It’s a well-earned reputation. Directed by Gareth Huw Evans, a Brit (actually Welsh) in Asia, and starring martial arts professionals in […]

Alberto Sordi stars in Alberto Lattuada's brilliant satire from Italy

The paternal hand of the ‘Mafioso’ on VOD and Criterion DVD

Mafioso (Italy, 1962), Alberto Lattuada’s brilliant satire of Sicily’s “paternal” mafia, became the cinematic rediscovery of 2006 when it was revived and shown at the New York Film Festival. Alberto Sordi plays the Sicilian son made good, a business professional in Milan who, bubbling over with sentimental zeal, brings his Milanese wife and two adorable […]

Al Pacino is Cuban thug turned Miami drug lord Tony Montana in Brian De Palma's 'Scarface'

‘Scarface’ – Say hello to my little friend on Netflix

Brian De Palma’s Scarface (1983), ostensibly a remake of the Howard Hawks gangster classic, moves the iconic rise and fall crime opera from the tommy-gun gangster street battles of the prohibition era to the cocaine wars of Florida in the eighties. In the process, De Palma, screenwriter Oliver Stone, and star Al Pacino carved out […]

James Cagney and Jean Harlow star in the gangster classic by William Wellman

‘The Public Enemy’ – James Cagney’s original gangster on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

James Cagney became an overnight sensation as the streetwise dynamo Tom Powers, a Chicago slum kid turned brutal mob goon in The Public Enemy (1931), William A. Wellman’s archetypal gangster classic. In the first depression-era films of the mob rats blasting their way to big screen glory like Molotov cocktails, Cagney’s Tom Powers was the […]

Donnie Yen and Andy Lau in the Hong Kong crime drama from Wong Jing

Donny Yen and Andy Lau are ‘Chasing the Dragon’ on Netflix

Directed by the insanely prolific Hong Kong action veteran Wong Jing, Chasing the Dragon (China, 2017) is the filmmaker’s crime epic, a historical drama that charts the rise and fall of two notorious gangsters who thrived in the rampant corruption enabled by Britain’s colonial rule of Hong Kong in the 1960s. The title is slang […]

Johnny Hallyday stars in the Johnnie To crime thriller from Hong Kong

Johnny Hallyday gets ‘Vengeance,’ Johnnie To style, on VOD and DVD

Johnnie To, the reigning king of the crime movie and the romantic code of gangster brothers within the mercenary world of organized crime, delivers another perfect little genre piece with Vengeance (Hong Kong, 2009). French pop legend Johnny Hallyday stars as Costello, a retired pro who comes to Macau to take revenge on the men […]

Szabolcs Thuróczy and Zoltán Fenyvesi in the film by Attila Till from Hungary

‘Kills on Wheels’ – Wheelchair assassins on Netflix

The offbeat Hungarian thriller Kills on Wheels (Hungary, 2016) turns a dark subject into an unexpected crime tale of triumph and hope with a streak of black comedy. Zoli and Barba are disabled teenagers in a rehabilitation facility where they meet Janos (Szabolcs Thuróczy), a former fireman now paralyzed from the waist down. Gruff and […]

Young Dais and Ryohei Suzuki in the hip-hop musical gang war thriller from Japan

‘Tokyo Tribe’ – gonzo gang war musical on Amazon Prime Video

The films of Sion Sono, who is fast closing in on Miike Takashi as Japan’s cinema wildman rebel, are increasingly outrageous, unhinged, extreme, and unpredictable, pushing expectations as well as boundaries, and trying anything and everything in a wildly creative (if unfocused) attempt to refresh familiar genres. Tokyo Tribe (Japan, 2014), adapted from a graphic […]

Kim Ok-bin stars in the South Korean action hit from Byung-gil Jung

‘The Villainess’ – a ferocious South Korean Nikita on Hulu

The Villainess (South Korea, 2017) is not a remake of La Femme Nikita but it is surely built from the DNA of that defining action classic. It opens on an amazing action sequence, a seemingly unbroken take from the jittery POV of some ferocious but still-unseen fighter wiping out armies of thugs with bullets, knives, […]