This month’s picks include films concerning the pain of war and the thrill of revenge.
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In the near-future, a far-right group known as the Volunteers has taken over America. They spend their days hunting and killing immigrants, queer people and people of color. Rebelling against them are a couple of outsiders — Sarah (Sarah Wharton) and her husband, Jarret (Jarret Kerr, the film’s co-writer) — who have stationed themselves on the Canadian border as an underground railroad for underrepresented groups to escape the country. In the film’s suspenseful opening, featuring kinetic camerawork and close-quarters gunplay, Sarah fights two Volunteers in the woods to save Arjay (Brandon Perea), a young gay Filipino man.
The major draw of the director William Sullivan’s dystopian and post-apocalyptic tale, however, isn’t wholly the frenetic action. It’s also the moral quandary caused by Sarah and Jarret, who are keeping a Volunteer named Gabe (Michael Raymond-James) chained to the floor of their barn as a prisoner. How can the pair despise how they are dehumanized when they treat Gabe like a dog? From a film in which the underrepresented are branded with bar codes emerges a fight not just for freedom but also a struggle for one’s principles amid unprincipled people.
Rent or buy on most major platforms.
Originally released in 1986, the Australian director Mario Andreacchio’s grindhouse film, “Fair Game,” gained renewed interest when the director Quentin Tarantino praised it in the documentary “Not Quite Hollywood.” It is now available digitally in North America through Dark Star Pictures.
In this delicious midnight offering, you can see a link between Peter Weir’s dystopian thriller “The Cars That Ate Paris” (1974) and Coralie Fargeat’s “Revenge” (2017) as a gang of ravenous kangaroo poachers descend upon an Outback wildlife sanctuary run by Jessica (Cassandra Delaney). What follows is a string of provocations by these malicious goons that peaks when they strap a naked Jessica to the hood of their car. Once she miraculously escapes, “Fair Game” quickly evolves from Jessica being the hunted to her hunting her harassers for vengeance.
The vibrant neon lighting, a vintage electronic score and a cheesy power ballad are the treats of this B movie. But it’s the climactic battle between Jessica and the gang, in which she uses wooden fence posts as javelins against moving cars, that’ll satiate your gory appetite.
Stream it on Netflix.
Taking some inspiration from the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in India, which happened in retaliation against the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the director Ali Abbas Zafar’s “Jogi” follows its titular character (Diljit Dosanjh) as he attempts to shepherd his friends and family to safety.
When tragic real-life events are rendered cinematic, a tendency to increase the melodrama can arise. “Jogi” is melodramatic, but not in a glib way. Its opening sequence shows a seemingly ordinary trip through the marketplace by Jogi and his father (Arvinder Singh Gill) turn into bloodshed when violence erupts against Sikh people. While Jogi indeed must weave through the surrounding carnage, often depicted in slow motion for maximum emotional impact, the sequence also outlines a grounded heroism of ordinary people saving each other. That theme continues with Jogi’s Hindu best friend Rawinder (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), a police officer, agrees to skirt orders by shepherding Jogi’s Sikh community to safety.
While intense run-ins with the authorities and Rawinder’s bitter colleagues set the film’s intense pace, Zafar’s narrative never loses sight of the impact one person can have on a people.
Stream it on Netflix.
Toby (George MacKay) is an activist graffiti artist known for breaking into the homes of the superrich to spray paint the phrase “I Came By” on their walls. By trolling the wealthy, he and his childhood friend, Jay (Percelle Ascott), his partner in crime, feel invincible. But that invulnerability fades when Jay quits upon learning that he will soon be a father. Toby, however, continues his spree by breaking into a home belonging to a former judge, Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville). There, Toby makes a terrifying discovery that shakes him before he mysteriously disappears. The ensuing search for Toby not only undoes his mother, Lizzie (Kelly Macdonald), but it reveals the sinister secrets lurking in Blake’s basement.
A taut, unnerving thriller from the British-Iranian director Babak Anvari, “I Came By” is primarily anchored by a vicious performance from Bonneville. He captures Hector as a gentleman murderer with bloodthirsty desires à la Hannibal Lecter. Bonneville relishes the opportunity granted by this role to make you squirm. His gory murdering rages, which are surprisingly quite physical, add a visceral layer to one of the year’s best performances.
Rent or buy on most major platforms.
Inspired by a real-life incident from the Russo-Georgian War of August 2008, the Georgian director Dito Tsintsadze’s film is a gritty and tactile action assault reminiscent of “Black Hawk Down” delivered through powerfully executed filmmaking. It initially follows a band of Georgian soldiers who are given clearance to return to safety during an agreed-upon cease-fire with Russia. A vindictive young Russian general (Dimitri Lupol), however, lures the outfit into a trap. What ensues is an incisively choreographed battle sequence captured in immersive detail by the cinematographer Konstantin Esadze that imbues every frame with suspenseful shock waves.
The Georgian soldiers barely stand a chance. They’re left for dead by the general and are only saved by virtue of a few local villagers putting themselves at risk through a series of terrifying nighttime trips into enemy territory. It’s a thrillingly told, life-affirming David versus Goliath war flick that remains, even as it takes in the vast violent tragedies that occur, visibly humanist.
Five Action Movies to Stream Now – The New York Times