Without further ado, let’s finish this!
5) The Setup and Payoff of Dolph Lundgren’s Castle Falls
This film is a treat for action fans and not just because of its immaculately staged action sequences. Dolph Lundgren’s conviction in establishing his characters’ motivations is the film’s greatest asset. By the time the action begins, you’re hooked because you understand what’s at stake for both Dolph Lundgren and Scott Adkins.
4) The Bizarre Personality of Kevin Lewis’ Willy’s Wonderland
Watching Nicolas Cage curb stomp a demonic animatronic gorilla is the icing on the cake for a film that’s so ridiculous but also entertaining. Willy’s Wonderland is a wild concoction of scary, funny, and action-packed that manages to blend together seamlessly. Nicolas Cage movies are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. Fortunately, this is one of the good Cage films because it fully embraces its premise and uses it to deliver some terrific action sequences as well as a silent and menacing performance from Nicolas Cage.
3) The Last Duel in Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel
The king is back to deliver one of the most epic battle sequences since Gladiator! After two hours of buildup, the climax of The Last Duel absolutely delivers with an action sequence that starts out exciting but ends up being repulsive by the time it reaches its conclusion. The lack of score is also a nice touch that helps emphasize the barbaric nature of the battle. The entire film itself is terrific, but for fans of Gladiator, the final duel between Matt Damon and Adam Driver is pure spectacle.
2) The Anxiety and Existential Dread of Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby
Shiva Baby is an hour-and-a-half of awkward moments that are effectively conveyed through claustrophobic closeups, a grating score, and a banger performance from Rachel Sennott! On the surface, Shiva Baby is a series of unfortunate events, but the subtext of existential crisis is where the true horror lies as we follow a young adult who can’t get her life together.
1) The Subervise Nature of Michael Sarnoski’s Pig
I’m so glad I went into this one completely blind. This is what some would affectionately call the “anti-John Wick” and for good reason. The film has the setup of a typical revenge film, but it handles it in a way that feels fresh; where you would expect the film zig, Pig goes in an entirely different direction. This might be one of Nicolas Cage’s most understated performances and you can feel that there’s so much beneath the surface. Pig is a quiet and melancholic film that relies more on mood and character as opposed to full-on action.