Netflix has become a sort of must-have resource for film fans all over the world, and really it’s hard to imagine life without it. The company has grown to a point at which it can supply hundreds of worthwhile films, as well as a growing number of Netflix original projects. The only trouble is there are almost too many films to deal with! Unless you have a specific title in mind to order or watch instantly, sifting through Netflix’s selection can be a little bit dizzying.
For that reason a lot of films that are quiet at the cinema and ultimately wind up on Netflix can easily go overlooked. It would take a lengthy essay to point to all of the films that fall under this description (and surely I’d miss more than a few), but by focusing on a single genre I hope to point fellow film fans toward a few good selections that might otherwise be lost in the shuffle.
Here are some of the most underrated and overlooked action films you can find on Netflix.
It’s a shock that there wasn’t more international buzz about Headhunters when it came out in 2012. It’s probably because it was a produced by a Swedish-Norwegian company, though one would think that would be offset by the fact that it was based on a popular Jo Nesbo novel of the same name. At any rate, if you, like many, haven’t heard of this film, you may be shocked to know that it’s the highest-grossing Norwegian film of all time. It stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Askel Hennie in a tense, twisted thriller about an art thief who ends up on the wrong side of some dangerous people. Its dark humour and excessive violence aren’t for everybody, but the film did receive 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Get The Gringo
Suffice it to say if you thought Mel Gibson left his action career behind in the ’90s, or that he was no longer a worthwhile actor following a few episodes of public disgrace some time ago, Get The Gringo may prove you wrong. There was surprisingly little talk about this film when it came out—perhaps because of those same public disgrace episodes—but watching it is proof that Gibson is still every bit the movie star. It’s basically an action saga about an American prisoner learning to survive in a cutthroat Mexican prison, but Gibson makes it so much more.
Now we’re getting into more obscure territory. Unlike Headhunters or Get The Gringo, the 2010 Roman epic Centurion didn’t fare too well with critics. However, it was a pretty successful film in tapping into some of the most intriguing warriors of human history. The Roman Centurion has been depicted in episodes Spike’s Deadliest Warrior series, and is even the subject of a slot reel at Gala’s bingo platform. While the game uses bright, appealing graphics of uniformed soldiers in an urban Roman setting as a backdrop to the slot arcade, the Centurion film took a grittier approach. Here we see a Roman century attacking a Pict outpost during Rome’s conquest of Britain. Michael Fassbender and Dominic West star in a typical but nonetheless enjoyable sword-and-sandals slashing epic.
Lord Of War
Nic Cage may not have the greatest reputation these days, and he’s certainly put out his fair share of awful films. 2005 action-drama Lord Of War wasn’t one of them. Cage plays a weapons dealer named Yuri Orlov who’s made a living selling lost Soviet guns and ammunitions years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Jared Leto and Ethan Hawke co-star in a film that might be considered a little bit more of a drama than a prototypical action flick, but it’s still worth a watch.
Another film that was overlooked upon release largely due to it distribution by a European company (in this case Scanbox Entertainment out of Denmark), Valhalla Rising is a terrific film for anyone who enjoys medieval warfare in action. Starring Mads Mikkelsen as a rogue warrior named “One-Eye,” it’s basically the tale of a man against the world. Like Centurion, it taps into the very popular genre of old-world combat. However, there’s a give and take. This film is a little slower and more thoughtful, which lends it more substance than we see in Centurion. However, its setting and subject matter are more hazily defined, which can make it feel a little lost at times.
Words cannot express the joyous absurdity that is Kung Fury. Originally released to YouTube in spring 2015, it’s now a full-fledged Netflix film. Actually, there’s even been a gaming adaptation of this ridiculous project: fans can download Kung Fury: Street Rage to get in on the action on their mobile devices. So what exactly is it? That’s a good question. Basically, it’s some guy’s semi-homemade kung fu film/cop drama spoof. It’s intentionally campy, and it’s truthfully more of a comedy than an action piece, but it’s delightful fun for anyone who views martial arts films with some amusement.
Again, a list of underrated or overlooked films on Netflix could go on forever. But for action fans, these are some that would make nice additions to the queue.