Your weekly streaming pick has arrived! Wu Assassins is a Netflix original fight fest starring Iko Uwais from THE RAID!
Kai Jin (Iko Uwais) is a star chef grinding out a living in Chinatown. Events beyond his belief conspire and Kai is imbued with mystical powers that has been passed on chosen individuals for hundreds of years. The purpose of these powers is to hunt down an ancient triad organization, the Wu.
It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then we get a purebred martial arts TV show. Into the Badlands is the last example I can think of. I know shows like Daredevil had some impressive martial arts, but I’m talking about the kind of kung fu shows that really ‘get’ the niche genre. There is more to a true kung fu project than just the martial arts. There is a feel to the story telling. The characters are often stark good vs evil. The stories usually involve some mysticism and the martial arts are stretched from impressive into a bit otherworldly.
Wu Assassins has it all.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. The acting isn’t amazing. A non-issue for fans of Kung Fu movies. No one is so bad the show is tough to watch, it’s just a bit stiff and amature feeling. It’s something that kung fu fans have learned to accept since that’s not the focus of the movie. Sure, it’s better when projects can pull off both, but the coolness and prospects of Wu Assassins is cool enough that this can be simply overlooked.
The martial arts are, of course, the main draw to the show. They aren’t as in your face intense and brutal as The Raid, but nothing is. The choreography is on point and even the actors who aren’t Uwais do a serviceable job. Uwais is the stand out and it’s clear from the start he was chosen for his physical abilities rather than his acting chops. Every episode gives you enough excitement to keep you hooked, even if you find it hard getting into the story at times. Even when things get a bit more mystic than you may personally like there is enough of the real feeling stuff to keep you hooked.
The show takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown. While there is some subtitled speech it’s kept to a shocking minimum given the almost exclusively asian cast. One cool aspect of setting the show in a familiar setting but basing it in traditional Chinese storytelling is something of a throwback to Chinese action stars making their way to America. It’s impossible to watch Wu Assassins and not get vibes of mid-career Jackie Chan, or when Jet Li was being introduced to mainstream American audiences. Think Rumble in the Bronx where the slapstick comedy is turned down and the badassery is turned up.
Wu Assassins is a promising endeavor that should be supported so we can get more. It feels like it falls into the Marvel Netflix flaw of slightly too many episodes per season but at only 10 that may not be fair.