Love stories abound on Netflix this month—sad, happy, and funny—so it will be a little harder than usual to find a little of the ol’ ultraviolence to cleanse the palate. But the February action on offer is a solid line-up of stalwart classics, with a couple of original releases as well.
1.) Batman Begins (2005) — Remember back when Christian Bale was the new Batman, and Christopher Nolan took the series from campy to a moody sort of superhero realism? Maybe not, because 2005 is now a really time ago, but at the time it was a pretty big deal. Nolan’s vision for Batman changed superhero movies forever, and his dedication to the project saw him direct every scene over the 129 day shoot—there was no second unit on Batman Begins. Bale was similarly dedicated, doing most of his own stunts. Fun fact: when Bale and Liam Neeson were fighting on the frozen lake, they could hear it cracking under their feet. They woke up the next morning to find it had melted. Extra bonus—The Dark Knight will be released at the same time. (Feb 1st)
2.) The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) — The only one of the Bourne movies to be nominated for an Oscar, The Bourne Ultimatum won three Academy Awards. The Paul Greengrass movie was a hard shoot, with a lot of location difficulties. In the chase scene in Tangiers, Julia Stiles isn’t pushing past extras, she is just shoving locals out of her way. Similarly, the set wasn’t locked down in Waterloo, leading to pedestrians in the background pointing at the camera. As in the other Bourne movies, Jason Bourne’s fight choreography utilizes Filpino Kali mixed with Jeet Kune Do. (His main adversary uses the exact same hybrid. Quite the coincidence!) Another problematic martial arts moment for the film comes when Nicky, played by Julia Stiles, is revealed in her field agent profile as being proficient in judo and jiu jitsu. Unfortunately, once she is an actual fight there’s not so much judo, but a good bit of flailing. (Feb 1st)
3.) Vikings: Valhalla (2022) — If you’re looking for some fresh blood, preferably lots and lots of it, Vikings: Valhalla will no doubt deliver. A reboot of the History Channel’s first foray into scripted drama, this show is set 100 years after the original, and follows the stories of Leif Erickson, Freydis, and Harald Hardrada. If you are a history nerd, it is immediately apparent just how much low hanging fruit there is here. The Vikings were up to some especially crazy s—t during that time and lots of people were dying very dramatically, so if you’re into that sort of thing, this should be packed to the gills with it. As always, the producers have made a point of casting people with names like Álfrún Laufeyjardóttir, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, and Frida Gustavsson, so it looks like this thing is legit. (Feb 25th)
4.) Fistful of Vengeance (2022) — Starring Iko Uwais, who has been highlighted by Bloody Elbow for his masterful stunt work several times over, and Lewis Tan, looks to pull together a variety of martial arts tropes (San Francisco chef stumbles across some ancient magic) and hold them together with a lot of slick fight choreography. It definitely has the pedigree to get the job done—Uwais and Tan are two of the best stunt workers-turned action stars in the game. (Feb 17th)
5.) Warrior (2011) — The MMA fight movie genre is a relatively small one, and many of the movies within it are mediocre or hilariously bad. Warrior is probably the most universally respected and liked of all the MMA fight movies out there. Hell, Nick Nolte got an Academy nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, the actors gave the movie their all—Hardy broke a toe, ribs, and a finger, Edgerton tore his MCL, halting production for six weeks. For MMA fans, there is a lot of crossover from Warrior to real life, from Frank Grillo basing his character on Greg Jackson, to the appearances of UFC veterans Anthony Johnson and Nathan Marquadt. Warrior is the quintessential Rust Belt family drama, involving a lot of secrets, alcoholism, and old grudges. Originally set in California and Las Vegas, it is hard to imagine Warrior outside of Pittsburgh and Atlantic City. The Pennsylvania tax breaks that inspired the location change did the story a lot of good. (Feb 1st)