Wu’s sequel Assassins Fistful of Vengeance brings more ambitious and stylistic fights but struggles with its shorter runtime.
The martial arts series Wu Assassins only lasted one season on Netflix in 2019, but the story and most of its main characters return in the film Handful of revenge. Take the action out of San Francisco and raise the stakes, Handful of revenge takes on bigger and more ambitious swings than its television predecessor. However, the film can’t quite take full advantage of its feature-length format, both to fill its 90-minute runtime properly or to provide enough polish to its hard-hitting action set pieces. The result is a film that doubles in style but lacks overall substance.
Set some time after the events of Wu Assassins, Kai Jin (Iko Uwais) continues to possess the mystical powers of the legendary Wu Assassins. Lu Xin Lee (Lewis Tan) and Tommy Wah (Lawrence Kao) accompany him on a trip to Bangkok on the trail of a murderer who killed Tommy’s sister, Jenny. The trio’s adventure in Thailand reveals a conspiracy involving two magical individuals tied to the story of the very first Wu Assassin centuries ago. Recruiting old allies to help even the odds, Kai leads his friends in a battle to not only avenge Jenny, but to stop this long-running conflict from consuming the entire world.
Compared to Wu Assassins, Handful of revenge rightfully boasts a grander approach to its cinematography with an assured sense of swagger and more stylized action settings than its TV counterpart. The film’s main setting in Thailand also gives the story a more impressive scope than the TV show, which was filmed in Vancouver while dubbing for the California Bay Area. The main cast continues to bring the thrills of martial arts, with Uwais, Tan and JuJu Chan Szeto as returning antagonist Zan providing cool confidence and tightly choreographed fights. Kao even gets in on the action after spending much of his time on the sidelines for Wu Assassins.
Or Handful of revenge falls noticeably short is in its final execution. Wu Assassins benefited from ten episodes and more prep time to form its story and choreograph its fight sequences. Conversely, the 95-minute runtime (including end credits) and shorter production window are felt here. Handful of revenge is a movie that could have used a little more polish with its scripting and fight scenes to really excel on the TV series. Many of the fights themselves are staged well but not as well delivered as Wu Assassins. They feel like they could have used a few more reps or tighter editing.
Wu Assassins felt like a love letter to grindhouse fantasy martial arts stories. There’s something lost in translation in bringing this to a feature story. A showdown at an archaeological dig site and an opening nightclub fight scene are some of the film’s most impressive moments, but those book-ending sequences are too little to save the movie as a whole. A martial arts movie lives and dies by how many fights it includes and how expertly staged they are. Handful of revenge is just below this measure.
Handful of revengeThe core cast bounce off each other well, and there’s plenty of room for a potential follow-up to explore their dynamics more deeply. If a sequel is ordered, it may learn from the growing pains present in Handful of revenge, making better use of its runtime and paying a little more attention to its action elements to deliver something more effective and well-staged. Much remains to be done in the continuing saga of the Wu Assassinscorn Handful of revenge is unfortunately a bad pass.
Directed by Roel Reiné, Fistful of Vengeance is available to stream on Netflix.
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