Five Action Movies to Stream Now

From slapstick heist films to a deaf action hero, this month’s picks rely on unsuspecting characters.

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By Robert Daniels

‘Among the Beasts’

Rent or buy on most major platforms.

For LT (Tory Kittles), the forlorn military veteran in the writer-director Matthew Newton’s film, closure is an elusive feeling. A year prior, a mystery person kidnapped the 12-year-old daughter of LT’s old army buddy. There were few leads on her whereabouts. The senseless tragedy caused LT to spiral into a drug habit and abject depression. Renewed hope arises, however, when Lola (Libe Barer), the daughter of a local crime boss, approaches LT to search for her missing cousin, who might’ve been taken by the same kidnappers who abducted the girl LT is searching for. With Lola, LT finds purpose. And with LT, Lola discovers a friend.

Kittles and Barer are a catchy double act, as they bumble through false leads into comedic misunderstandings. One particular mishap at a dry cleaner involves Lola being held hostage by mobsters only for them to realize she’s an old family friend. The morphing of this tenuous situation into playful reminiscing is a highlight. A final shootout in the woods leads to a catharsis for LT, whose emotional wounds are desperately in need of healing.

‘Cliff Walkers’

Stream it on Tubi.

In the 1930s, four Chinese soldiers parachute into Manchuria after the Japanese occupation to free a former prisoner, their only eyewitness to the heinous human experimentation enacted by the Japanese. The situation turns icy when the group splits up; some are caught while others take refuge with spies who could be double agents. At the same time, local Chinese authorities are pretty sure a traitor lurks in their ranks. In the high-stakes game of espionage at the heart of Zhang Yimou’s “Cliff Walkers,” the frosty environment adds uneasy tension.

The cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding evocatively uses car headlights to frame the chase sequences as the balletic shadows of bodies tussle around the falling snowflakes. Similar to other wartime thrillers, not everyone is destined to live to the end. The escalating kill count, featuring grueling torture scenes, only adds to the resolve of the main players, giving “Cliff Walkers” a keen urgency that immediately renders the movie an unmistakably powerful story.

‘The Lost Lotteries’

Stream it on Netflix.

For Tay (Wongravee Nateetorn) and his mother (Thanaporn Wagprayoon), life isn’t easy. A fourth-year business student surviving off a government student loan, Tay takes over his injured mother’s modest lottery ticket business. He often dreams of riches, the kind of wealth that will buy his mother a house. It’s a far-flung fantasy that briefly comes true when he strikes the winning number. The loan shark his mother owes money to, however, wants to be paid back. His goons steal Tay’s lottery case containing not just his winning ticket, but four others belonging to a washed-up boxer, a bit-playing actor, a sales model and a quiet daughter hoping to sue the man whose car hit her father. The quintet of unlikely allies devises a harebrained scheme to steal back the tickets by infiltrating the gangster’s underground fight ring.

“The Lost Lotteries,” a sharp action-comedy by the Thai director Prueksa Amaruji, thrives on an eat-the-rich philosophy. Because as the characters enlist in an M.M.A. bout, use a tiny home fan as a weapon and kidnap a cockfighting rooster, they realize that their many near-death experiences are further distancing them from the treasure they desire. They discover the value of living, and of each other, in a touching heist flick that packs both punch and heart.


Stream it on Amazon Freevee.

In the South Korean director Yoo Ha’s slapstick action-comedy “Pipeline,” oil traveling through tubes across the country is susceptible to thieves seeking to siphon the precious liquid. The most revered of these poachers is Drill-bit (Seo In-guk), a man so physically and mentally attuned to the task, he owns a patented method for puncturing pipes. He is recruited by the ridiculously wealthy Geon-woo (a venomous Lee Soo-hyuk) to steal an entire building’s worth of oil by employing experts in their respective professional fields. These specialists, unfortunately, arrive with several question marks, like the team’s sickly, retired engineer and a self-absorbed turncoat.

Fascinatingly, at its core, “Pipeline” is a heist movie. A plan is put together; unexpected obstacles arise (their clandestine work becomes public knowledge); and we ultimately marvel at the ingenuity on display. The team’s persistent scheming leads to high comedy (a pair of blundering cops) and flashy editing (match-cuts that push the frenzied pace). By the end, a kinetic series of back-stabbing and unlikely twists that would make Danny Ocean proud causes the country to be saved from near destruction.

‘Preman: Silent Fury’

Rent or buy of most major platforms.

Sandi (Khiva Iskak), a deaf man striving to support his son, works as a henchman for a local gangster. When his boss threatens to uproot his homeland by exiling its residents, Sandi defies the mobster, fleeing with his son soon afterward.

Concerning a courageous lone man trying to protect his village, the Indonesian director Randolph Zaini’s “Preman: Silent Fury” is a visual showcase. Sandi defends himself against the hired hands sent to kill him, such as Ramon — a psychotic barber armed with stainless steel shears — with only a bolas as his weapon. Their gruesome bout relies on hand-held cameras and tight close-ups for an immersive vision of these two fighters battering each other’s bodies with rapid blows. The cinematographer Xing-Mai Deng accents each set piece with breathtaking lighting, such as the melancholic blue hues of Sandi’s nightmares. Aspect ratio changes and invigorating triptychs recall a slew of spaghetti Westerns. Though the film stars a hearing actor as a deaf man, its high concept, mixed with luscious gore, adds fresh wrinkles to the action genre.

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