Crime and corruption are rampant in the fictional Japanese metropolis of Kaiko City: The underworld kingpin Gojo (Lily Franky) is running for mayor to redevelop an impoverished neighborhood into a high-stakes nightlife denizen of gambling. The only person who can stop him is the disgraced former cop Torada (Hitoshi Ozawa). Released early from prison by desperate prosecutors to be captain of Special Investigation Division Zero, he is willing to work outside the law to get the job done.
The director Kensuke Sonomura’s background as a stunt coordinator proves an asset in the pulpy confines of “Bad City.” Torada and his team spend the film chasing baddies and other mob bosses through noir-tainted streets, leading up to a mall brawl between the cops and several rival gangs: It’s a breathless scene composed on a massive scale, intertwining vast, complex choreography with a precision and visceral intimacy that is impossible to shake.
‘Code of the Assassins’
Qi Junyuan (Shaofeng Feng) is an elite killer in army of hired swords from Ghost Valley. He arrived there as a child, after his parents were murdered in the search for a golden treasure map. After their deaths, the map disappeared. But now it’s back and Prince Rui Chai Kang (Jack Kao) wants it. Junyuan goes rogue to solve the mystery of his parents’ demise only to uncover a thorny conspiracy that leads back to the prince’s palace.
The Chinese director Daniel Lee’s film contains many moving parts, pulling it from melodrama to espionage thriller, but what really surges it forward is showmanship. One theatrical trap sees a piece of string used to decapitate dozens of men in a kill room. A robust mix of slow motion and heavy metal needle drops add a flourish to sword fights staged on an impressive scale. The assassination scene, which employs a ceremonial dragon, is a mass of flying, careening and spinning men that transitions from bruising to poetic.
Kang Do-young (Kim Rae-won) was once a beloved submarine commander. But after his vessel took a hit from a missile, he was forced to make a difficult decision that still haunts him. A year later, a ghost from his past has come for revenge. A terrorist has planted bombs throughout the city that will explode if the sound around them reaches a certain level. And the man has picked Kang to diffuse them. The locations of these weapons are also tied to the people closest to Kang, his wife and his daughter.
“Decibel,” from the Korean director Hwang In-ho, is a smart hybrid of the submarine movie, by virtue of flashbacks to the events leading up to the tragedy, and a procedural action-thriller like “Speed.” Smart set pieces tethered to the solving of complex puzzle-like bombs build a sense of dread. And the feelings of grief and remorse at the heart of Kang offer the perfect mix of action and melodrama.
Equipped with a cane and a moral uprightness, Deputy Tabby Temple (Nikki Amuka-Bird) arrives back to work at her quaint police station carrying a fractured family burden: The single mother’s endangered son Monty (Zack Morris) might be dealing drugs. Her personal land mine becomes part of a chain reaction when a killer in search of evidence from a drug bust arrives to raid the station. Alone and injured, Temple must survive the night defending herself, the evidence and her son.
Keen eyes will notice how closely the writer-director Will Gilbey’s “Jericho Ridge” hews to “Assault on Precinct 13.” And yet, his film isn’t a full-on copy: The presence of a Black woman fighting for the precious life of her Black son, as she lays her life on the line for policing is a sly political choice that gives these choreographed shootouts in close quarters an extra layer of thematic tension and racial anxiety that thunder louder than a hail of bullets.
World building is an essential element to the directors Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein’s Swissploitation epic “Mad Heidi.” It begins with Switzerland’s dystopian power structure: Nazi-inspired soldiers are ruthless strongmen for a dashing dictator (Casper Van Dien) angling to rule through mind-controlling Swiss cheese. An unassuming mountain girl named Heidi (Alice Lucy) witnesses her protective grandfather and her boyfriend (Kel Matsena), a Black pimp illegally selling cheese in cocaine packets, murdered by soldiers.
Heidi’s eventual detainment by soldiers, forcing her to train as a gladiator in the Alps before she breaks for freedom, recalls the early Blaxploitation prison narratives that launched Pam Grier’s career. A dash of propulsive spaghetti western music and hilarious one-liners like “Yodel me this,” used to punctuate Heidi killing a man with an accordion, add other indelible ingredients. Also, did I mention there are cheese zombies? Every second of “Mad Heidi” is rip-roaring Gouda time.