REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX
In a world where we're literally spoiled for choice when it comes to new genre shows, it's nice to know that even the trashiest of dreams are being catered for. Wu Assassins is an example of glorious yet ridiculous trash. It's a modern-day martial-arts fantasy show, with magical powers, scenery-chewing villains and lots of punching.
Our main hero is Kai Jin (Uwais), a humble chef who happens to be handy with his fists. He does the right thing and sticks up for a friend, which means he ends up having a run-in with the local triads. Of course, he's related to various gangsters as well, but that doesn't stop the baddies from having a go.
We meet the rest of the cast: an addict trying to get their life together, the strong businesswoman, the ruthless killer and the undercover cop car thief with a dark past and a killer fashion sense. It's a show so filled with clichés that we suspect it was deliberately written with a trope-powered drinking game in mind. This show has more lampshades than a branch of Ikea. It's a series that can't resist putting in a detail that doesn't make a lot of sense in context and then explaining it in a throwaway line, normally followed by swearing or over-acting. Or better yet, a spot of very well co-ordinated martial arts action.
Of course, the bad guys won't stop harassing Jin, and this prompts mystic forces to choose him as the Wu Assassin - an ancient hero charged with taking out a conspiracy of baddies, each of whom has an elemental based power. Each villain is a proper comic-book bad guy. From your stereotypical Chinatown kingpin to an ancient warrior-poet who hails from the 'land of Celts', we get a nice range of villainy and almost a full house of clichés. That the martial arts are fun to watch is pretty much a given here, but the pace of the plot is not good. It's a show that works well in small doses; you can't binge this without getting a bit bored. But individual episodes are neat; it's just all a bit samey when shown in one lump.
Though the action scenes are fun, the acting is decidedly wooden. The plot is also second-rate, and we get the sort of character development you'd expect from '80s tea-time telefantasy. Except with modern special effects. Wu Assassins can't decide if it's mid-range drama or if it's just a dumb superhero show with a bit more martial arts than usual.
The result is a bit of a mess. When the acting isn't over-the-top, it's instead so wooden that it floats. They are some fun key moments and some great set pieces, but this is essential top-grade corn. You can tell the budget went on the stunts and not the script though.