For being the hit that it was on Netflix in 2019, the period of silence after “Wu Assassins” was a little surprising, to say the least. But better late than never is the operative saying for chapter two of the “Wu Assassins” franchise, “Fistful of Vengeance”.
Though jumping from a series to a movie leaves “Fistful of Vengeance” shedding or under-utilizing a few key players that made the show as great as it was, the movie makes up for it with a very fast-paced narrative that wastes no time, plenty of top-notch action scenes, and a deeper look into the otherworldly history of the Wu Assassin lineage.
Iko Uwais is back as Kai Jin, aka the “Wu Assassin”, with Lewis Tan (see our interview with his legendary father, Philip Tan) also returning as Kai’s good friend Lu Xin Lee. Lawrence Kao reprises his role as Tommy, with JuJu Chan Szeto also back as the cutthroat assassin, Zan Hui.
Some new additions to the “Wu Assassins” franchise include Rhatha Phongam as the villainess Ku An Qi and Jason Tobin as the literal yang to her yin, William Pan. Pearl Thusi also portrays Lu Xin’s old flame Adaku, with Francesca Corney portraying our hero’s new ally in their mission, Preeya.
After the murder of Jenny, Tommy Wah and his friends Kai Jin and Lu Xin Lee, head to Thailand to avenge her death at the hands of Bangkok crime boss Ku An Qi.
However, their mission is complicated by their enemy being the twin of ancient Chinese immortal Pan Gu, now in his modern incarnation of William Pan. Once determined to wipe out the world and start it anew, Pan Gu was stopped by the first Wu Assassin.
With Ku determined to fulfill the original quest as Pan Gu as one half of the immortal, it now falls to Kai as the new Wu Assassin to stop her.
With Kai and his friends, including Lu Xin’s ex-girlfriend Adaku and their newest associate Preeya, determined to stop Ku and avenge Jenny, they gradually learn there’s more to their mission than they realize, including the unexpected arrival of their old enemy, Zan Hui.
The jump for “Wu Assassins” to “Fistful of Vengeance” is a little bit jolting, though not in a bad way. Compared to the 10 episodes of “Wu Assassins” that fleshed out the mythos of Kai as the new incarnation of the supernatural warrior, “Fistful of Vengeance” hits the ground running like it’s got more energy than it knows what to do with.
Funnily enough, “Fistful of Vengeance” almost has a feel more akin to Iko’s other big 2019 release “Triple Threat”. As a similar action ensemble itself, “Fistful of Vengeance” is also very economical in its 95-minute running time, well aware of what its audience is boarding the ship for.
“Fistful of Vengeance” takes a further dive into the supernatural origins of the Wu Assassin, linking Kai’s lineage directly to the beginning of time.
Martial arts packaged in mysticism and supernatural lore is always fun, though “Fistful of Vengeance” does shortchange a few elements established in “Fistful of Vengeance”.
The absence of Mark Dacascos as one of the thousand monks from whom Kai draws his strength, is certainly felt in how well “Wu Assassin” integrated him as Kai assuming his likeness in action scenes.
JuJu Chan Szeto’s return as Zan is also much more brief than her role in “Wu Assassins” and the show’s cliffhanger ending would suggest. Nonetheless, while those shortcomings won’t go unnoticed, the strengths of the Wu Assassin mythos being further developed outweigh them, along with “Fistful of Vengeance” keeping pace with its predecessor’s amazing martial arts fights.
Director Roel Reine, one of the kings of the straight-to-video action movie golden age, does some of his best work yet in capturing the action scenes of “Fistful of Vengeance”.
Well aware that the star of “The Raid” movies is the leading man, “Fistful of Vengeance” interjects just as much blade work as it does fists and feet.
The movie never pauses too long before getting rolling into a more elaborate battle than the last, elevating every time from a marketing face-off with meat cleavers, onward to a high-rise gang war and into a chaotic warzone in a hotel out in the jungles of Thailand.
Spoiler warnings must be levied for the crowning achievement of “Fistful of Vengeance”, though. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that the movie knows it’s being made in the age of the oner fight scene. “Fistful of Vengeance” treats viewers to the best it’s got that Iko Uwais and Lewis Tan fans will spend the rest of 2022 and beyond deliriously ecstatic about…!
“Fistful of Vengeance” takes the “Wu Assassin” franchise on a very fast-paced ride.
Whilst there are areas where significant elements of the show come up a little short in the transition from streaming series to streaming movie, “Fistful of Vengeance” expands the Wu Assassin mythos in new ways while hitting viewers with all the martial arts action they crave.
“Fistful of Vengeance”, embraces a pedal-to-the-metal approach, and is much more of a contained story than “Wu Assassins” – that said, it’s hard to imagine viewers not being eager to see the next adventure of the Wu Assassin and his allies.
Either in season 2 or another movie, we’re keen to experience another “Fistful of Vengeance” in the “Wu Assassins” universe!
- “Actually, no. More like that show from the ‘70s. Kai and Lu Xin are the angels. I’m like Charlie.” – Tommy (after his date likens the Wu Assassin to the Avengers.)
- “No!” – Lu Xin and Adaku (emphatically denying they used to date when asked.)
- The movie was filmed in Thailand early in 2021.
- In an interview with Movieweb, Lawrence Kao described the movie’s continuity with the series: “[It] is sort of like a standalone movie. You don’t necessarily have to watch the first season to understand what’s going on…I personally think it’s something that’ll be more easily digestible, but also more action-packed, and a roller coaster from beginning to end.”
- Director Roel Reine also directed the third and fourth episodes of “Wu Assassins”.
- Some of Roel Reine’s past movies as director include “The Marine 2”, “Death Race 2”, “Death Race 3: Inferno”, “The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption”, “The Man With The Iron Fists 2”, and “Hard Target 2”.