It used to be that action movies had some grunt under the hood, but ballooning budgets and the need to attract big audiences mean that Hollywood blockbusters have lost some of their edge. Mainstream American action cinema is tamer than it used to be; we might get the occasional John Wick-shaped outlier, but your big franchises – The Fast and the Furious, Mission: Impossible, all things Marvel – cleave to a more PG aesthetic.
But if you know where to look, you can still get your fix. The video-on-demand world is teeming with action movies of the sort that used to keep Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and their colleagues in clover. The budgets are lower by an order of magnitude or two, but if you have a hankering for some blisteringly fast and impactful martial arts actions, they’ve got the goods.
The stars of this genre substrata might crop up in more upmarket fare from time to time, but they thrive in action B-movie milieu: Tony Jaa (Ong Bak), Iko Uwais (The Raid), Tiger Hu Chen (Kung Fu Man), Michael Jai White (Falcon Rising) and especially British martial artist and actor Scott Adkins.