The best action movies on Amazon Prime

The best action movies on Amazon Prime

Clockwise from top left: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Screenshot); Mission: Impossibe—Ghost Protocol (Paramount Pictures); Next Day Air (Screenshot); Dr. No (Screenshot); The Expendables (Screenshot); Haywire (Screenshot); Ronin (Screenshot)
Clockwise from top left: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Screenshot); Mission: Impossibe—Ghost Protocol (Paramount Pictures); Next Day Air (Screenshot); Dr. No (Screenshot); The Expendables (Screenshot); Haywire (Screenshot); Ronin (Screenshot)

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular movie? Click the author’s name at the end of each passage for more in-depth analysis from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

Some titles on this list also appear on our best movies on Amazon Prime Video list, but we decided action films deserved their own spotlight since they are often not included on our year-end lists as much as other genres. The criteria for inclusion here is that (1) the film is classified by Amazon Prime Video as an action movie (so don’t shoot the messenger if you think something is misgenred here), (2) The A.V. Club has written critically about the movie; and (3) if it was a graded review, it received at least a “B.” Some newer (and much older) movies will be added over time as Amazon Prime Video announces new additions to their library.

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Netflix, best movies on Disney+, and best movies on Hulu. And if you’re looking for a scare, check out our list of the best comedy movies on Amazon Prime.

This list was most recently updated April 7, 2021.

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2 / 25

48 Hrs.

48 Hrs.

Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy
Screenshot: 48 Hrs.

Because 48 Hrs. was directed by economical genre specialist Walter Hill, it moves relentlessly, with scarcely a wasted scene or shot in its 96 minutes. And because it’s an early example of the buddy-cop movie, it features multiple scenes and elements that later became cliché, as when Nick Nolte’s shouty African-American boss tells him he needs to be “more of a team player and less of a hot dog.” It would be a solid actioner even without Eddie Murphy, anchored by the almost-as-colorful Nolte, whose character is so disheveled and abrasive that he’s constantly threatened with arrest by cops who don’t realize he’s one of them. As Nolte baits Murphy with racially charged insults (some overt, some subtle), 48 Hrs. plays with the question of which of these two men has the power in their relationship: the washed-up authority figure, or the smooth-talking law-breaker? But as good as Nolte is in this movie, there’s really no contest. As soon as Murphy steps out of his cell, it’s clear he’s planning to stick around. [Noel Murray]

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3 / 25

Apocalypto

Apocalypto

Illustration for article titled The best action movies on Amazon Prime
Photo: Apocalypto

Leading a mostly unknown cast, Rudy Youngblood stars as a young Mayan warrior living in an unspecified Mesoamerican jungle shortly before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. Gibson and co-writer Farhad Safinia take their time in developing the low-key hunter-gatherer pacing and rituals of Youngblood’s enclave, from its friendly, rough humor to Youngblood’s relationships with his father, allies, and pregnant wife (Dalia Hernandez). Once Youngblood’s home begins to feel real, director Mel Gibson and Safinia destroy it: Manhunters descend, burning homes, slaughtering men, raping women, and largely ignoring children, then hauling the survivors off to a bustling Mayan city for sale and sacrifice. Ultimately, Youngblood flees, trying to escape his pursuers and return to his wife and son before they succumb to the protective trap in which he left them. From there on in, Apocalypto is just a primal game of murderous tag, Rambo with bone earrings and an alien dialect. [Tasha Robinson]

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4 / 25

Attack The Block

Attack The Block

John Boyega and his crew
John Boyega and his crew
Screenshot: Attack The Block

Edgar Wright reteams with his Hot Fuzz stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for this funky little cult-movie-in-the-making by his friend and writing partner Joe Cornish. (Naturally, the two worked on Spielberg’s new Tintin movie, which co-stars Pegg and Frost.) Continuing their extraterrestrial theme, the film concerns a motley, multicultural crew of street kids who take on monsters from outer space. In a pre-Star Wars performance, John Boyega plays a charismatic gang leader whose attempts to mug a pretty nurse played by Venus’ Jodie Whittaker are rudely interrupted by the unexpected appearance of a fearsome alien monster. Whittaker, Boyega, and Boyega’s gang must subsequently put aside their gender, racial, and class differences for the sake of a common cause: fighting off a mysterious alien plague. Frost is funny as a low-level drug dealer and National Geographic buff, as is Luke Treadaway as a student who stops by Frost’s weed spot to pick up some marijuana, and gets more than he bargained for. [Nathan Rabin]

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5 / 25

The Avengers

The Avengers

Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.
Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.
Screenshot: The Avengers

Since making an Avengers movie requires lining up so many moving pieces in an orderly row, it’s something of an accomplishment that The Avengers even exists. But beyond that logistical nightmare is the double agenda the film has to serve, advancing the stories of the individual characters as begun in previous films while telling a coherent, self-contained story. Factor in another wave of Marvel movies and an inevitable sequel, and that agenda gets even more complicated. All of which raises the question: Is there room for any movie within this Avengers movie? Decidedly, yes. Written and directed by Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon, The Avengers is big but graceful, carefully balancing small character moments with action scenes that stretch from the New York pavement to the sky and beyond. The film finds drama in the reluctant cooperation of teammates yoked together by the threat of a common enemy, as well as in the terrifying shadows cast by giant space monsters as they descend from the heavens. Tasked with meeting the many requirements necessary for any Avengers movie to work, Whedon checks off all the boxes, then sets about creating new expectations for what a big superhero movie ought to be. [Keith Phipps]

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6 / 25

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger

Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger
Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger
Photo: Marvel

More than any Marvel Studios film since Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger feels like it’s working from a conceptual checklist titled How To Make A Superhero Movie Fun For Everyone. For mainstream viewers, there are big action sequences, a heady battle montage, a ’40s setting featuring über-Nazis with glowing laser-guns, and plenty of well-timed one-liners. For the hardcore comic-book fans, there’s the Wilhelm scream, the Stan Lee cameo, the Marvel-history inside jokes, and a self-aware humor that even includes a wry dig at Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Just so everyone feels included, the eponymous hero has a competent multicultural support team and a kick-ass love interest who never needs to be rescued. And to cover even more bases, director Joe Johnston reaches past all the modern meta humor to inject the film with the cheery gosh-wow sincerity he brought to The Rocketeer. The roster of crowd-pleasing elements seems dubiously calculated and ambitiously lengthy, but ultimately, that’s no strike against the film, which follows Iron Man’s lead in obscuring the calculation behind outsized, gleeful fun. [Tasha Robinson]

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7 / 25

Casino Royale

Casino Royale

Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig
Screenshot: Casino Royale

The most significant shot in Casino Royale—the Daniel Craig revamp of the James Bond franchise—comes early, while the new Bond is getting his Parkour on and hopping from beam to beam at a construction site in pursuit of a terrorist bomber. When Craig severs a cable so he can rise up on a pulley, there’s an insignificant insert shot of the pipes Craig cut loose, now tumbling on the ground. But it’s only insignificant from a plot perspective. From a thematic perspective, the falling pipes reflect the mission statement for this new Bond: “Actions have consequences.” This is a messier Bond than we’d seen in a while. He’s impulsive, he miscalculates, and when he kills someone, he gets blood on his hands, his face, and all over his clothes. In Casino Royale, 007 has plenty of chances to get bloody. [Noel Murray]

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8 / 25

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

 Zhang Ziyi
Zhang Ziyi
Screenshot: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The wire effects of Crouching Tiger—the heroes who can basically fly—were nothing new to audiences in Hong Kong or China. Lee, from Taiwan, had grown up watching movies like that, and Crouching Tiger was, in some ways, the realization of a childhood dream for director Ang Lee, who’d spent the previous few years making English-language interiority dramas like Sense And Sensibility and The Ice Storm. But Lee knew that he was making something new for Western audiences, for people who hadn’t seen those wire effects create dream-realities in movies like The Heroic Trio or The Bride With White Hair. And so that first action scene was, among other things, an intentional challenge to the movie’s Western audiences. Lee was telling us that we were entering a world where the rules were not the same, where fighters could drift slowly through the air and where nobody would act like that was a weird or unnatural thing. It worked. It all worked. [Tom Briehan]

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9 / 25

Dr. No

Dr. No

Sean Connery
Sean Connery
Screenshot: Dr. No

In lieu of the elaborate, expensive set pieces that would dominate later entries, Dr. No shows James Bond (in this case, Sean Connery) engaged in actual spycraft. Before leaving his hotel room, he sprinkles powder on the latches of his briefcase and attaches a hair to one of his closet doors, so that he’ll know whether someone searches his room in his absence. (Someone does.) When an enemy poses as his ride at the airport—apart from a quick London check-in, the entire film is set in Jamaica and surrounding islands—he discovers the truth by cleverly… phoning the people who allegedly sent the ride and confirming that they did no such thing. There’s more shoe leather involved than usual, to the point where the movie occasionally feels as if it’s mostly Bond striding confidently across various rooms in exquisitely tailored suits. Even Dr. No’s plan isn’t especially diabolical, compared to those of future villains like Blofeld and Goldfinger; had Bond failed to stop him, the doctor would merely have set back Project Mercury a few years, in all likelihood. (World domination may be S.P.E.C.T.R.E.’s ultimate goal, but the present-tense stakes here are quite low.) It’s all pleasingly modest, combining the freshness of something new with the relaxed assurance of something well-established. When the Bond franchise starts to seem oppressive, Dr. No is the ideal palate-cleanser. [Mike D’Angelo]

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10 / 25

The Expendables

The Expendables

The Expendables
The Expendables
Screenshot: The Expendables

With The Expendables, a rejuvenated Sylvester Stallone set out to make not just an action movie, but the action movie. To aid his quest to create the gold standard by which all other cinematic bloodbaths should be compared, he assembled a cast straight out of a 12-year-old boy’s fevered fantasies, bringing together multiple generations of action heroes, including Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Gary Daniels, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, and more. He even managed to snag a much-ballyhooed cameo from a towering icon who seemingly abandoned Hollywood to pursue lesser work, like governing California. The once-in-a-lifetime cast has raised the expectations of ultra-violence fans to almost prohibitively high levels, but The Expendables delivers pretty much exactly what its audience wants and expects: big, dumb, campy fun so deliriously, comically macho, it’s remarkable that no one in the cast died of testosterone poisoning. [Nathan Rabin]

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11 / 25

Haywire

Haywire

Gina Carano
Gina Carano
Screenshot: Haywire

Like any Steven Soderbergh film, Haywire comes with a level of sophistication—an achronological structure, a multi-toned color palette, a knotty tale of alliances and double-crosses—but in this case, it’s all an elaborate smokescreen. In truth, Haywire is simply a delivery system for ass-kickings, calibrated to the specific talents of Gina Carano, a former mixed-martial-arts star and American Gladiator whose fists (and feet) of fury can rattle skulls and cave in chests. Screenwriter Lem Dobbs, who worked with Soderbergh on Kafka and The Limey, has streamlined the latter into a more basic revenge tale—with elements of an international spy thriller—that’s written within Carano’s range and hits action beats with satisfying regularity. It’s his and Soderbergh’s idea of lizard-brain entertainment, and its pleasures are remarkably distilled. [Scott Tobias]

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12 / 25

Inception

Inception

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Leonardo DiCaprio
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Leonardo DiCaprio
Screenshot: Inception

There are only a handful of filmmakers capable of infusing spectacle with ideas, and among those, director Christopher Nolan feels uniquely tapped into the anxieties of the day. Two separate but related millennial fears drive Nolan’s ambitious, mostly dazzling new opus Inception: We have no control over our lives, and reality as we used to understand it no longer exists—or at least has been fundamentally destabilized. Squaring the beautifully engineered puzzles of Memento and The Prestige with the chaos and anarchy brought by the Joker in The Dark Knight, Inception takes place largely in a dreamscape where thieves of the mind fend off attacks from rebellious agents that clutter the subconscious. It’s a metaphysical heist picture, staged in worlds on top of worlds like nothing since Synecdoche, New York, and executed with a minimum of hand-holding. [Scott Tobias]

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13 / 25

Minority Report

Minority Report

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise
Screenshot: Minority Report

“What keeps us safe, keeps us free,” declares a propagandistic advertisement for the controversial Pre-Crime Division of the Washington D.C. police force, a unit that uses three visionary “Precogs” (short for “precognizant”) to apprehend would-be killers before they kill. The inherent contradiction of the “safety is freedom” proverb seems as lost on the leaders of 2002 as it does on the ones in 2054, which is only part of what gives Steven Spielberg’s astonishing Minority Report such enormous relevance and power. Expanding on a Philip K. Dick short story, the film could be the mirror image of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, only instead of violent crime being deterred after the fact, the perpetrators are arrested before it happens. Free will is lost in both cases, but the certainty is enough for Tom Cruise, a “future crimes” detective who synthesizes the visions of three Precogs like he’s conducting a virtual orchestra. Few directors are capable of marrying ideas and entertainment—one is often sacrificed for the other—but Spielberg peppers one gripping action setpiece after another with trenchant details about a near-future robbed of the most basic freedoms and privacy. [Scott Tobias]

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14 / 25

Mission: Impossible—Fallout

Mission: Impossible—Fallout

Mission: Impossible — Fallout
Mission: Impossible — Fallout
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Only about 30 rocket-paced minutes have whizzed by before Mission: Impossible­—Fallout first flirts with truly impossible odds. Ethan Hunt, the human missile of American intelligence that Tom Cruise has been popping back in to play for more than 20 years now, is masquerading as a mysterious terrorist, the perfectly named John Lark, to buy back some plutonium he’s lost to a cabal of doomsday extremists. The bad guys, alas, will accept only one form of payment: the sneering anarchist supervillain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who Hunt put away in the last Mission: Impossible and is now forced to bust out of police custody to avert nuclear catastrophe. Forget, for a moment, the risk that our hero will unleash the world’s most dangerous man back on the world. How, exactly, can Hunt free his nemesis without either killing a lot of innocent cops or blowing his cover as an agent of chaos who wouldn’t think twice about leaving a trail of bodies in his wake? [A.A. Dowd]

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15 / 25

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, the series’ fourth film, charges director Brad Bird with the task, betting that the animator behind The Incredibles and Ratatouille would have similar luck with flesh and blood in his live-action debut. The bet pays off. And then some. Bird brings a scary amount of assurance to Ghost Protocol. His action scenes are clean, coherent, thrilling, and visceral, never more than in a mid-film sequence in Dubai that piles setpiece atop setpiece as the action moves in, around, up, and down the Burj Khalifa skyscraper—the tallest building in the world. As Tom Cruise clings to the side of the building using malfunctioning equipment, and a sandstorm looms in the distance, the question shifts from whether Bird can direct an action film to whether there’s anyone out there who can top him. [Keith Phipps]

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16 / 25

Next Day Air

Next Day Air

Omari Hardwick
Omari Hardwick
Screenshot: Next Day Air

Donald Faison wanders through Next Day Air in a stoned haze as the unlikeliest of catalysts. The baby-faced Scrubs veteran plays a fuckup so incompetent that he can barely hold on to a job where his mom is his boss. Even his smoke-buddy Mos Def has the initiative to steal from his employers and customers, but Faison’s ambitions begin and end with toking as much weed as possible without losing his job. Faison sets Next Day Air’s plot in motion when he accidentally delivers a package containing a small fortune in cocaine to a trio of stick-up kids with more balls than brains: Wood Harris, Mike Epps, and a sleepy thug who spends so much time on the couch dozing that he’s become part of the furniture. Scenting a big payday, these small-timers decide to immediately sell the coke to Epps’ cousin, a paranoid mid-level dealer looking to make one last score before leaving the business for good. But the intended recipient of the package isn’t about to let Faison’s screw-up go unpunished, nor is the hotheaded Hispanic kingpin whose drug shipment has mysteriously gone missing. A very pleasant surprise, Next Day Air is the rare crime comedy that does justice to both sides of the equation. [Nathan Rabin]

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17 / 25

Ronin

Ronin

Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro
Screenshot: Ronin

Whether it’s laying out its ambush-and-heist schemes or racing through French city streets at breakneck speeds, Ronin expects viewers to keep up. John Frankenheimer’s film makes the groan-worthy mistake of explaining the significance of its title twice—first in a textual introduction, and later via an expository conversation between two characters. Yet in all other respects, the movie is a work of no-nonsense proficiency, moving at a fleet pace that allows the audience to revel in the sights and sounds of freelance ex-military professionals and criminals adeptly concocting and executing elaborate smash-and-grab plans. The heists initially involve Irish beauty Natascha McElhone conspiring (on behalf of boss Jonathan Pryce) to steal a briefcase from a moving caravan in Nice. To accomplish this endeavor, they enlist the help of an international team that includes reliable Jean Reno, skittish Sean Bean, calculating Stellan Skarsgård, and calm, composed Robert De Niro. [Nick Schager]

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18 / 25

Salt

Salt

Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie
Screenshot: Salt

Directed by Phillip Noyce from a script by Kurt Wimmer, Salt stars Angelina Jolie as a CIA operative whose already-dangerous life takes a peculiar turn when a man claiming to be a Russian defector (Daniel Olbrychski) walks into her office building with a story about a society of genetically selected deep-cover operatives trained from birth by the KGB to plot the overthrow of the United States. The twist of the tale: He claims Jolie is one of them. Fearing repercussions of this allegation and seeking to secure her husband’s safety, Jolie goes on the lam. Or maybe she has other motives for running. Was the Russian telling the truth? Borrowing a page from the North By Northwest playbook, Salt is essentially one endless chase scene, one that doesn’t let up and that refreshingly relies far more heavily on real-world stunt work than obvious CGI assistance. Metal twists, flames crackle, and it all feels disarmingly tangible. [Keith Phipps]

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19 / 25

Shanghai Noon

Shanghai Noon

Owen Wilson and Jackie cHAN
Owen Wilson and Jackie cHAN
Screenshot: Shanghai Noon

Even in the summer of 2000, Shanghai Noon felt a bit outdated. On multiple levels, it’s a throwback: to the kinds of odd-couple action-comedies that littered the multiplex in the’80s and ’90s, but also to the silly ’60s Westerns that trafficked in broad stereotypes about native people and pioneers. The movie’s schtick is slick and satisfyingly familiar but creaky. Still, that’s where having a great cast helps. Liu brings uncommon poise and dignity to the thankless role of the damsel in distress, while Roger Yuan and Xander Berkeley make suitably cocky villains. There’s even a small, hilariously nutty Walton Goggins turn as the loose cannon in Roy’s gang. Yet what mostly makes Shanghai Noon so easy to rewatch 20 years later is that director Tom Dey lets his leads do their thing. Chan gets to be the overlooked little guy with the big talent, performing dazzling stunts with crack comic timing. And Wilson gets to be the lovable dreamer, who gives us the essence of The Owen Wilson Experience when he survives a near-death experience and then becomes all sappy, saying, “I’ve never noticed what a beautiful melody a creek makes. I’ve never taken the damn time.” [Noel Murray]

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20 / 25

Thor

Thor

Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman
Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman
Photo: Disney

Some of the best moments in Thor, an adaptation of a long-running Marvel Comics character, don’t spotlight its hero’s abilities as a hammer-slinging, battle-loving, monster-fighting Norse god. They come from Natalie Portman, who co-stars as an astrophysicist who discovers Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in the middle of the New Mexico desert. The film establishes her as a hard-driving, fiercely committed professional using the usual shorthand, but the way she melts into a stammering, smitten, girlish mess in Hemsworth’s presence is all her own. It’s not hard to see where her character’s coming from, though. In a star-making turn, Hemsworth plays Thor as an uncomplicated man of action with the moral clarity and love of derring-do of a ’40s swashbuckler and the toned physique of a 21st-century underwear model. He’s also the embodiment of the big, loud, relentlessly entertaining film around him, the sort that should remind moviegoers why they used to get so excited about comic-book movies in the first place. [Keith Phipps]

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21 / 25

Tomorrow Never Dies

Tomorrow Never Dies

Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan

Popular consensus holds that Pierce Brosnan’s best outing as James Bond is his first, 1995’s GoldenEye. It’s hard not to wonder if there’s a halo effect from the beloved video game adaptation affecting its reputation when 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies is sitting right there. More than two decades later, Brosnan’s second appearance in the role stands out as both the most ’90s Bond movie and the rare entry that has elements of prescience, rather than pure trend-chasing. Actually, prescience versus trend-chasing neatly encompasses the motives of the best villain of the Brosnan run: media baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), a somewhat more megalomaniacal version of Rupert Murdoch, intent on starting World War III for the benefit of his broadcasting empire. Satirical skepticism of the media (and its fixations on ratings, sensationalism, etc.) is a fashionable remnant of the Natural Born Killers era, while the threats of conglomerates and consolidation have only gotten scarier and more vivid in the years since. Tomorrow Never Dies isn’t exactly incisive in its treatment of Carver; he is a Bond villain, after all. But Pryce gnashes his teeth with style, and it’s satisfying to see 007 take on a Murdoch stand-in without completely demonizing real journalism. [Jesse Hassenger]

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22 / 25

Train To Busan

Train To Busan

Train To Busan
Train To Busan
Screenshot:

South Korea’s Yeon Sang-ho found a fresh take on the zombie-breakout flick by narrowing and elongating its shape; he constrains most of the action to a single high-speed rail, challenging a band of human survivors to safely pass from car to car. Yeon clearly establishes the rules governing his flesh-eaters early on and works within them well (one clever set piece involving a climb through the luggage racks will leave one’s nails in shreds), though his humans don’t have that same thought-through quality. (Pregnant woman and dutiful husband? Check. Workaholic dad and precocious young daughter? Check. Tragic teenage lovers? Check.) But a zombie movie content not to aspire to any loftier subtextual readings needs little more than a skilled choreographer of action, and there’s plenty of evidence that this film had one in Yeon. Ooh, do “demons in a submarine” next! [Charles Bramesco]

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23 / 25

Traitor

Traitor

Don Cheadle
Don Cheadle
Screenshot: Traitor

Throughout his career, Don Cheadle has proved himself a superlative minimalist, a man with a gift for effortlessly conveying a deep, complicated inner life. That skill is put to good use in the international thriller Traitor, with Cheadle brilliantly playing a man of fierce intelligence, focus, and efficiency whose allegiances are shrouded in mystery, especially in the early going. Cheadle stars as a devoutly Muslim former U.S. Special Ops officer who began associating with radical Islamic terrorists during a stint in Afghanistan. Since then, he’s effectively operated off the grid, popping up during a botched arms deal, a prison break in Yemen, and a terrorist bombing in France. Cheadle’s sinister deeds put him on a collision course with Guy Pearce, an FBI agent whose background echoes that of the shadowy man he’s pursuing. [Nathan Rabin]

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24 / 25

Warrior

Warrior

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton
Screenshot: Warrior

The naturalistic camerawork, gritty urban environments, or brutal setting of mixed-martial-arts fighting may mislead viewers away from the truth: Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior is a man-weepie of the highest Hollywood order, a would-be Rocky for an empire in decline. It’s irresistible, but how could people resist when Warrior comes packing double-barreled underdog arcs in the form of brothers played by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton? They’re estranged from each other, but not as much as they’re estranged from their alcoholic father (Nick Nolte), who terrorized them and their mother until she ran away with her younger son, prompting her husband to eventually get sober. Hardy is a distraught former Marine who washes up on his dad’s Pittsburgh doorstep and starts training at the local MMA gym, beating the consciousness out of what turns out to be a highly ranked fighter in what was meant to be a casual sparring match. Edgerton is a Philly physics teacher and family man struggling to pay the bills, a former UFC pro who moonlights in parking-lot matches for extra cash to throw an upside-down mortgage. These two archetypes of bruised American masculinity are played by a Brit and an Australian, and played well—particularly in the case of Hardy, who’s been poised for stardom since 2009’s Bronson. He’s riveting here, a little boy lost with the hulking build of a minotaur; his dialogue would scarcely fill a few pages, but his character speaks volumes with his fists. [Allison Willmore]

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25 / 25