Whenever I need to take a break from lamenting about the insanity of global politics, I watch Netflix or Amazon Prime. I recently binged on the latest seasons of GLOW and Mindhunter (both phenomenal by the way), but afterwards, I went full-on Indiana Jones and ventured into Iko Uwais territory with Wu Assassins. For this review, I’m gonna talk about what’s good, bad, and ugly, about Netflix’s latest action show.
THE GOOD: The NUMBER ONE REASON why you should be watching Wu Assassins is for the fights alone. End of fucking story. Dan Rizzuto’s choreography and Kimani Ray Smith’s stunts are absolute boss here, and Iko Uwais SHINES in every fight he’s in. It’s like you’re watching the rapid-fire fighting of The Raid, but on a polished AMC show. Furthermore, everyone, from Juju Chan, to Li Jun Li to Katheryn Winnick, is fighting like madmen here. Seriously. Every single actor on this show put EVERYTHING into these fights, and it shows. One of the highlights for me involves Lewis Tan going toe-to-toe with a knife fighter in Episode 9, while Iko is taking on three guys at once! This is the kind of combat you wanna see on a show like this, and it’s well worth the price of admission. If you’re here to see an ASS KICKING CAST with a REMARKABLE stunt team, look no further than to Wu Assassins.
THE BAD: Well, if you came here for the fights, then you’re in luck. However, what sucks about the show is that, like a lot of martial arts themed shows, it’s lacking in coherent plot. It’s really REALLY all over the place here, with a hokey premise involving the Wu Xing, terrible pacing, jumbled character motivations and forced musical choices (some of the rap really, REALLY doesn’t work for a LOT of episodes). Furthermore, there are way too many characters involved here, and the show could’ve done more to whittle down the cast here, especially in regards to Tommy Wah and Ying Ying. Lawrence Kao did do the role justice here, but I felt Tommy was a massive hindrance to the team overall. Ying Ying did the plot no favors either and, in my opinion, helped make the show verge on more stereotypical ground with her vague intentions, arrogant posturing and overall annoying demeanor. If the show needed a Miyagi-esque Sensei / Sifu character, they should’ve had the gall to write one that doesn’t like an asshole manager who demands results yet gives no guidance. Fuck that shit.
THE UGLY: Is it me, or is the CGI on this show fucking ugly? I mean really REALLY UGLY. For all its combat merits, this show has some 3DO level graphics here. It’s especially worse when it comes to the fire effects in the first few episodes. I mean jeezus, it makes Byron Mann look cheap, despite him being a total badass as the ever-conflicted Uncle Six. These effects only really work in dark settings (see Alec McCullogh’s first encounter with the Water Wu), but the production team didn’t take that into consideration for large parts of the show. What results is a genre show that has fantastic martial arts trappings, but poor supernatural effects. To the Wu Assassins post-production crew: please up the ante when it comes to the computer effects.
All in all, I highly recommend that you check out Wu Assassins. It ain’t perfect, but its got a stellar cast and some wicked fight scenes that, I believe, are worth experiencing. Though it’s riddled with poor pacing and lackluster CGI, it’s my hope that they’ll fix these hiccups for Season 2. Furthermore, it’s not everyday that you see a Southeast Asian guy headlining a Netflix TV show, so, in a way, you’re patronage of this show is kind of contributing to the un-whitening of American TV, and that’s a good thing! With shows like Warrior following in the footsteps of the recently finished Into the Badlands, it’s my hope that we’ll be seeing better martial-arts themed shows from the U.S. eventually. Well, at least ones with better CGI.