A good action-noir can excavate the darker corners of humanity while delivering the pleasures of the genre. That happens with “Brut Force,” from the writer-director Eve Symington. It stars Lelia Symington (the director’s sister) as Sloane Sawyer, a whip smart investigative reporter who owes much to the gumshoes of noir past, in a drama concerning fractured families and deadly secrets.
It takes place at a California wine farm owned by Sawyer’s troubled stepdad, Arthur Stendhal (played by the director’s father, Sidney Symington). He calls her home to probe a string of threats levied against local migrant workers by xenophobic townspeople. A sturdy narrative pillar supports this swift script: During Sawyer’s stay, a pregnant Latina assistant to Arthur goes missing and an arsonist burns down the house of a migrant worker. Sawyer also falls for an old crush (Tyler Posey) whose cutthroat mother is bad news. Lelia Symington gives a performance that’s both witty and muscular while navigating sturdy fight scenes in a film whose political contours speak as loudly as a punch.
‘The Getaway King’
During his criminal career, Zdzislaw Najmrodzki, the man known in Poland for robbing Pewex stores of their American-made products and redistributing those items to poor locals, became a regional Robin Hood. And with his unique ability for prison escapes, he became only more famous. Inspired by the life of Najmrodzki, Mateusz Rakowicz’s slick heist flick is set in 1988, at the height of the robber’s adventures, and charts his eventual downfall.
That descent begins with Najmrodzki (a charismatic Dawid Ogrodnik) and his crew facing off in a cat-and-mouse game against a newly arrived detective (Robert Wieckiewicz), a man whose mullet is as long as his reach for the law. This playful film about Najmrodzki pulling one last job so he can live the straight and narrow, however, never takes itself too seriously: It features a funky score of scratchy guitars and sleazy horns, elaborate tracks, stylish freeze frames and one of the funniest uses of and Wilhelm scream I’ve heard in a while.
On Jan. 25, 1980, after the botched bombing of a petrol depot, three fighters from a wing of the African National Congress entered a bank in the Pretoria suburb of Silverton for refuge while fleeing South African government police. The hostage situation that followed led to a six-hour standoff between the revolutionaries and the cops. The South African director Mandla Dube’s “Silverton Siege” recalls those true events to interrogate the viciousness of apartheid.
The trio – Terra (Noxolo Dlamini) and Aldo (Stefan Erasmus), and their dedicated leader, Calvin (Thabo Rametsi) – enter the bank knowing one of the three is a mole. Their mutual distrust offers acute friction when played against their suspicions about the primary police negotiator, Johan Langerman (Arnold Vosloo), and the racist police chief he obeys. Dube balances these internal struggles with explorations of topics like racial passing, the country’s civil rights movement and pro-white factions among Black folks. He also fills this movie with potent standoffs, especially when the ending for the three fighters becomes abundantly clear. The final siege, a barrage of bullets and flying bodies, calibrated by hairpin editing and a haze of blood-red lighting, swells the heart with an affection for these defiant revolutionaries.
An injured gunman awakens at the site of a car wreck and doesn’t remember his name or how he got there. Within hours his consciousness switches to another body, and by midnight he jumps to another. Along the way he pieces together his identity through a few clues: A woman named Jin-ah (Lim Ji-yeon) is searching for her missing boyfriend, I-an (Yoon Kye-sang), after a shootout with underworld goons. It’s not long before this amnesiac man discovers that he, himself, is I-an.
With a premise recalling Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” and Rian Johnson’s “Looper,” “Spiritwalker,” from the South Korean writer-director Yoon Jae-geun, is an unpredictable gangster film; its fluid camera work and balletic fight choreography evoke 1990s Hong Kong action cinema. The elaborate set pieces often draw their tension from I-an’s impending transitions to a new body; one sees him trapped in a submerged car trying to hold his breath as the seconds tick away until his spirit can leave. Another, set in a narrow marble hallway, is a gunfight made all the more thrilling through its confined surroundings and streams of copious gore. It’s that kind of precise action balanced with surprise twists that makes “Spiritwalker” as intricate as Nolan’s and Johnson’s best work.
‘The Turning Point’
On its face, “The Turning Point” could easily devolve into a mindless odd couple action-comedy. But a deeper, sensitive spirit resides in the Italian director Riccardo Antonaroli’s crime flick. Ludovico (Brando Pacitto) is a depressed comic book artist who never leaves his tiny apartment, a space decorated with movie posters for Italian films like “Il Sorpasso” (from which Antonaroli’s movie borrows heavily). Ludovico’s life is permanently altered when Jack (Andrea Lattanzi) breaks into his home to seek shelter after stealing from the vicious crime boss Caino (Robert Catrini).
In the passing days Ludovico and Jack form a surprising friendship as the street-smart Jack teaches his lonely, sheltered host both how to stand up for himself and how to approach the woman of his dreams. Their relationship gives this seemingly familiar thriller unique laughs and sparks of bromance.