Review by Tatiana Miranda
Three years after the release and subsequent cancellation of the Netflix series Wu Assassins comes the feature-length sequel Fistful of Vengeance. The series follows Kai Jin (Iko Uwais), Lu Xin Lee (Lewis Tan), and Tommy Wah (Lawrence Kao) as they use martial arts and magical powers to defeat mystical entities threatening their otherwise ordinary lives. Fistful of Vengeance continues to follow the trio as they travel across Thailand looking for answers about the death of Tommy's sister, Jenny. It becomes quickly apparent what they are fighting against, as the film opens with an action scene, one of many that appear throughout the film.
Fistful of Vengeance's action scenes are one of the movie's only redeeming qualities, but they also prohibit it from offering insight into the characters and their motives. Like the original series, Fistful of Vengeance is primarily action, and the plot comes second. While the martial arts scenes are entertaining to watch and a testament to the talents of Iko Uwais and Lewis Tan, both talented martial artists, they are paired with below-average dialogue and plot points.
The characterization in this film consists of quick quips and tragic backstories that present as half-thought-out reasons for a character's actions (as seen with Preeya, a secondary character and love interest to Tommy). Not even the most masterful action scenes can distract from the lack of plot, and they especially look dull when the audience has no stakes or attachments to the characters involved in the fight scenes. The lack of characterization and personality between the various characters make it difficult for a viewer to connect with the team and worry about whether they will win or not.
One of the other primary downfalls to this movie is that it is a sequel to a series, and while it does its best to clue the audience in on the history of the three main characters, it is done in a way that is more annoying than intriguing. For example, the movie begins with an action scene paired with Tommy talking to a woman about how Kai's powers came to be. It's a device used to catch the audience up on what happened in the series, but it is done in quite possibly one of the least exciting ways imaginable.
The explanation is then paired later with another by character William Pan, played by Jason Tobin, to demonstrate the primary threat of the story. Because the film is chock-full of action scenes, it only allows time for quick explanations for plot points that would otherwise take a while to uncover.
Overall, while Fistful of Vengeance is a good display of interesting martial arts choreography and an ode to the beauty of Thailand, it falls short as the movie seconds plot to action and thrills, much to its detriment.
Fistful of Vengeance is now streaming on Netflix.