Capsule reviews of action movies once available to stream


Here we’ve preserved Luke Buckmasters’s short and sweet reviews of action movies that have been moved from their original streaming platforms. You can find their current streaming homes by clicking each title.

Assassin’s Creed (2016)

Justin Kurzel’s under-rated adaptation of the blockbuster video game is an intensely sombre work that never condescends to viewers, in a genre that almost always infantilises audiences. A rich painterly look brings visual flair to an admittedly difficult script—with too much rather than too little plot—following Michael Fassbender as he inhabits the body of an assassin in 15th century Spain.

Baby Driver (2017)

Edgar Wright’s sassy crime caper follows a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who is on the autism spectrum, putting his foot to the floor only if listening to killer tracks on his headphones. Fair enough. The story of a decent kid embroiled in a life of crime becomes a quasi-musical and a possessed jukebox of an action movie; by matching visual and audio in such a way, Wright made a genuine original.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)

Few films are as aesthetically influential as Ridley Scott’s dystopian classic, which came to define the look and tone of cyberpunk motion pictures and video games. Harrison Ford patrols dark and dank streets retiring very human-esque replicants, forming the centre of a philosophically chewy sci-fi with big questions on its mind. Is he a robot too? Do androids dream of electric sheep?! The more recent Blade Runner 2049 is also a magnificent and intensely cerebral achievement.

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Fans of The Shawshank Redemption will get a kick out of spotting the similarities with Don Siegel’s diligently directed bust-out classic from 1979. A characteristically gruff Clint Eastwood plays an inmate who interprets the following line as a challenge: “No-one has ever escaped from Alcatraz and no-one ever will.”

The Fugitive (1993)

“I didn’t kill my wife.” “I don’t care!” This simple dialogue exchange doesn’t do much on paper, but in the film—pairing Harrison Ford’s growl with Tommy Lee Jones’ mean country twang—it became a deliciously famous moment from 90s cinema. Ford, wrongly convicted of murder, eludes Jones while figuring out whodunit in a twisty and wildly enjoyable chase movie.

Furious 7 (2015)

I’m not a big fan of the tired and—despite all those lead feet and screeching tyres—slow soap opera that courses through the veins (engines?) of the Fast and Furious movies. But hot damn, that Dubai double skyscraper stunt scene in the seventh (and best) installment—captured in a glorious extreme long shot—is fantastic. The rest of the film, directed by James Wan, is fine too—with a surprisingly tender goodbye to star Paul Walker, who died during production.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Guillermo del Toro’s most imaginative production marks the second performance from Ron Perlman as the buff, tomato red, human-like titular half-demon raised as a superhero to fight for humanity. This is a film that cares about its creations—even ones cursed to die in service of spectacle—such as a huge, plant-like, city-destroying monster discussed in the context of exquisite beauty (“you destroy it, the world will never see its life again”). Magnificent.

The Hurricane Heist (2018)

Filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone understood the simple trick of adding industrial fans to blow things around on set, creating movement and intensifying mise-en-scene. This idea is taken to insane new levels in director Rob Cohen’s highly under-rated spectacle, in which pretty much everything blows around pretty much all of the time. The action revolves around  robbers who—you guessed it—stage a heist during a hurricane.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq-set war film has a rare kind of panic-inducing energy. If you’re a chronic nail biter, expect to gnaw your fingers off. Bigelow focuses on an elite team of bomb diffusers (including Jeremy Renner) and builds a volatile atmosphere, juxtaposing extreme loudness with unsettling quietude.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Speaking of Nazis…Quentin Tarantino’s seventh film begins with vintage monologues from Christoph Waltz and culminates with an explode-a-palooza of historical revisionism, the cinema itself the very venue for the demise of Adolf Hitler. Tarantino’s penchant for pop-art cinephilia is on full delirious display, sprucing up a stop-start narrative about—as Brad Pitt so eloquently puts it—”killin’ Nazis.”

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

When cardshark Eddy (Nick Moran) loses big in a rigged poker game, he and his pals set out to settle their debts by stealing from weed dealers. Surprise surprise, there are complications. The various elements of Guy Ritchie’s cockney gangster movie really gel: the snappy performances, the even snappier dialogue, the washed-out cinematography, the disciplined and energetic editing. It’s Ritchie’s first film and remains his best.

The Matrix (1999)

The Wachowski siblings’ sci-fi blockbuster needs no introduction; labels like “classic” do not come close to doing it justice. Keanu Reeves snapped out of ordinary life to fulfill a Christ-like call to arms, taking on the gods of the computer program dictating our lives. The ‘bullet time’ sequences inspired countless copies, although attempting to trace the impact of this film is folly. A genuine phenomenon.

Paddington 2 (2017)

The beloved marmalade addict became an allegorical stand-in for outsiders in general and refugees in particular in 2014’s Paddington and its even better sequel. The protagonist is embroiled in a crime caper involving a highly valuable pop-up book and Hugh Grant as an irresistibly hammy villain. Director Paul King’s visual approach is informed by great films of the silent era, such as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.

The Revenant (2015)

Alejandro González Iñárritu directs a beautifully shot hybrid of hardboiled action-revenge pic, survival in the wilderness thriller and wintry neo-western. Beaten like a piñata plus slashed, mauled, frozen, lacerated, buried alive and flung off a cliff, Leonardo DiCaprio limps across the country chasing Tom Hardy. Unpleasant for him; thrilling for us.