Review: Iko Uwais Has Arrived in Netflix’s Slam Bang Martial Arts Epic WU ASSASSINS! (Part 1)

Ever since Iko Uwais first debuted in 2009’s Merantau, the Jakarta born action star has steadily been rising through the ranks of the martial arts action genre. Uwais really hit his stride with the now classic 2011 The Raid: Redemption and its follow up The Raid 2 in 2015. These films from director Gareth Evans really set the bar high for the genre and really put Indonesian action cinema on the map for a more mainstream audience. Uwais has since starred in a host of Western flicks such as Mile 22 and the epic action ensemble Triple Threat.

Although I enjoyed the Mark Wahlberg led action-thriller, Mile 22 was a missed opportunity to introduce Uwais to a larger crowd that didn’t know him. Director Jesse V. Johnson’s Triple Threat was certainly a step in the right direction but with Netflix’s new epic series Wu Assassins, Uwais has the best chance ever to finally make it ober the bridge to the mainstream and with a 10 episode arc for the first season, he has ample time to do it and show off his skills in full.

Before I go any further, let me clarify that this is part one of my review as I have not been able to watch all 10 eps. I have seen the pilot and from that alone I can tell that the narrative is spot on for fans of this type of action and the action set pieces alone in the debut are definitley worth the price of admission.

Episode one starts off with a collective bang and this is the only way that the series could start as we are treated to Uwais in one fast and furious (pardon the pun) fight sequence which signals back to the glory day of his performance in The Raid. The scene is in a hallway of an apartment building and the audience gets to see all the glorious fists and feet of fury in a nicely edited sequence where Uwais and the terrific stunt team don’t hold anything back in a brutal and unflinching display of fisticuffs that will rival anything you see in Asian action films. The scene defines the type of action we are in store for and with the talent invloved suroounding Uwais in Mark Dacascos, Byron Mann, Lewis Tan, JuJu Chan and more, we are feasting upon a new breed of action and martila arts television.

Uwais stars as Kai, a chef who longs to make his food truck business a success. He has big dreams and he is clawing his way to get there. Unfortunately for Kai, a dinner order scew up at the restaurant he is working at puts him on the radar of the local Triad who rule San Francisco Chinatown with a collective and ruthless iron fist (again pardon the pun). To make matters worse and even more complicated, the Dragon Head of the gang is none other that Kai’s adoptive father Uncle Six played sinisterly bu Byron Mann. Kai technically is supposed to be untouchable but a mistake forces him to defend himself from all angles.

Wu Assassins turns mystical as Kai runs into (literally) a mysterious warror named Ying Ying played by Celia Au. After Kai realizes that she isn’t who she appears to be, Ying Ying lays upon him the power of 1000 monks and tells him that he is the Wu Assassin who is destined to protect the realms of Heaven and Earth from the ultimate warriors who harness the power of the elements. It seems that these monks sacrificed themselves to save China many years ago and now the threat is back. Jai is the chosen one and whether he likes it or not, he’s the one to stop these ominous power from destroying everything. The bad guys have taken the form of modern day criminals and now it is Kai’s duty to protect us all. Now that’s a full day if you ask me.

Uwais is the highlight of the show but it is the supporting cast that drive it home as well. Besides Mann who eats it up as the sinister Uncle Six, we also have Lewis Tan (Into The Badlands) who plays Lu Xin Lee, a professional car theif who works for the Triads but has other allegiences. Genre journeyman Tzi Ma (Rapid Fire) is solid as always as Mr. Young, a kind hearted grocery stor owner who lives in Kai’s apartment. Li Jun Li plays Jenny Wah along with her brother Tommy (Lawrence Kao) who are friends of Kai. JuJu Chan (Invincibel Dragon, Savage Dog) lurks throughout the premiere episode as one of Unlce Six’s lethal enforcers and you just know that she will get her hands dirty during the course of the show. Last but not least is Katheryn Winnick who plays Undercover Detective Christine “C.G” Gavin who is sent to infiltrate Lee’s chop shop. Winnick was a joy to watch on Vikings and here she looks just as formidable.

This is a spoiler free review so I won’t go into the specifics of Mark Dacascos’ role in the series but it is certainly a new and fresh take for the actor and it will be interesting to see how he reacts with Uwais’ Kai as the show rolls along in the rest of the episodes.

The ending of the episode culminates in the same fight we saw at the beginning but with a new take and twist on it as we have now learned some things throughout the course of the episode. It’s the same fight but it is presented differently and extends the kick ass butality displayed by Kai that we first saw at the beginning. It cleary shows viewers that this series will uphold the hype that was set forth from initial promos.

I will be writing a second review for the series once I have completed it as I never binge watch anything. I like to take my time and immerse myself in the universe of the show that I am watching but I can safely say that by the end of the day Netflix’s Wu Assassins will be ACTION-FLIX APPROVED with Uwais finally coming in to his own here in the West. The action is top tier and the talent on display is well worth your time if you’re a serious action genre freak like me. Let’s just hope that Netflix gives this series the props it deserves and hopefully the saga will continue into more seasons. Stay tuned and keep it locked and loaded right here as we are your source for everyhting action!

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