The Best Fight-Heavy Action Movies You've Never Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You've Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we go toe to toe and foot to face with some of the best fight-filled action movies you've never seen.)

Action movies come in all shapes and sizes, but while big stunts can be truly thrilling when done right few sequences are more impressive than a beautifully choreographed, filmed, and edited fight scene. We've been gifted with truly stellar fight films in recent years from The Raid 2 to The Villainess to last year's The Night Comes for Us, but for every one that breaks through to find an audience and some pop culture recognition, another disappears into the ether.

I'm here to correct some of those slights – six of them to be precise – and while most of them come from the expected countries of origin including South Korea, Thailand, and Japan, one of them is actually German. Yes, a German martial arts film, and like the rest of the movies here it kicks some serious butt.

Keep reading for a look at some of the best fight-oriented action movies you've probably never seen.

Confidential Assignment (2017)

A North Korean censor guard works hard to keep the Supreme Leader happy, but when he's sent south to retrieve a rogue general he discovers what he believed to be the truth is anything but. He's partnered with a South Korean detective, and while the two are opposites in every way but employment they become reluctant and respectful friends.

This gem won't win any originality awards as it will remind viewers very clearly of films like 1988's Red Heat and other mismatched cop pairings, but what it lacks in freshness it more than makes up for with pure fun. Hyun Bin and Yoo Hae-jin show crazy good chemistry, and their banter – both verbal and physical – brings big laughs through fish out of water and culture clash comedy. The two also differ as cops with the northern officer being a lean, mean fighting machine and his counterpart being more of a slovenly goofball.

Even better than the comedy, though, is the action – duh, this is an action list – and the film delivers beautifully on that front. Brutal, sharply crafted fight scenes share the screen with some solid vehicle action, and the talents (both onscreen and off) ensure all of it lands with real impact. The film also gives viewers one hell of a foot chase which is something not enough movies invest their time into, and it's pretty damn thrilling. It all builds to a highly satisfying conclusion that will leave you wishing these two would cross the border to work together again soon.

Confidential Assignment is available to stream.

Kill Order (2017)

David is a shy high school student with some mental troubles. Something in his past haunts his subconscious, but it's forced into the light when a highly trained squad of armed men come bursting into his classroom. They're no match for what their presence unleashes, though, as young David surprises everyone – including himself – by being an incredibly skilled ass-kicker.

At 77 minutes there's not much time for real story details to pervade the film meaning there's little nuance or density to the narrative. Somehow that doesn't stop it from being a bit convoluted, though, as the truth behind David's abilities – they're not entirely natural in origin – is revealed in choppy fashion. It's unclear if the result is as written or if elements were trimmed before, during, or after production, but the end result is a script that stands out for the wrong reasons.

Happily, the short running time is filled with plenty of bone-crunching, head-spinning action. Lead Chris Mark – probably related to writer/director James Mark? – is a stuntman/fight coordinator taking a spin as a lead performer. (He was Michael Cera's stunt double in Scott Pilgrim vs the World!) As is often the case his acting is still a work in progress, but it's an action movie and the action here is absolutely terrific.

Kill Order is available on DVD and to stream.

Plan B (2016)

Can, Cha, and Phong are best friends and stunt performers in search of employment, but their manager is more enthusiastic than he is reliable. A simple mixup in the details of their latest gig sees the trio walk unwittingly into a kidnapping instead of a film set, and soon they're forced to use their acrobatic fight skills against real bad guys instead of performers.

Can Aydin, Yoon Cha-lee, and Phong Giang are real-life friends and stunt performers who've made a career fighting and coordinating in big screen action movies. You wouldn't know it, but you've seen their work in films like Skyfall and Red Sparrow and will see them again in the upcoming John Wick 3 and Hobbs & Shaw. All three are fantastic fighters delivering blistering punches, flexible kicks, and immense talent.

More than that, though, the three are charismatic performers. They infuse their characters and the film itself with personality and a terrific sense of humor that recalls Jackie Chan's filmography at times. They blend comedic bits into the action with their use of objects within reach, and the whole works to entertain the hell out of viewers who can't help but smile as limbs and bodies fly. There's no darkness here, and while that means the baddies lack an edge or real sense of threat the sheer fun of it all is more than enough.

Plan B is not currently available.

Re: Born (2016)

Toshiro was once a legend on the field of battle singlehandedly dispatching dozens of enemies before they even knew he was there, but one day he gave it all up for a far simpler life. He's forced back into the life of death when people from his past come calling. Big mistake for them. Huge.

Tak Sakaguchi's most famous role remains in 2000's Versus, but his latest is the far better watch. It's still an action movie hung on an extremely simple plot, but there's a reason the setup is so familiar – it's incredibly effective despite its one-note nature. Action movies are about the action, and this one delivers plenty of stellar sequences guaranteed to delight genre fans looking for kinetic thrills. Toshiro takes on lots of bad guys, many of them during a thirty-minute assault up a hillside that is a thing of beauty.

Part of the film's appeal is the new style of fighting that Sakaguchi brings to the screen called Zero Range Combat. Does it mean something more than close quarters fighting? I don't know, but its use of small blades for fast, vicious strikes is mesmerizing and thrilling in equal measure. He's the real deal, and while he's a better fighter than actor he's never less than a charismatic and captivating stunner.

ReBorn is not currently available.

Skin Trade (2014)

The actions of a Serbian gangster draw the wrath of two police officers from different parts of the world, and neither will rest until the big guy's dead. One is an American cop seeking vengeance for the murder of his wife and daughter, and the other is a Thai detective intent on fighting human trafficking on his beat. They're bad-asses on their own and unbeatable together.

Dolph Lundgren and Tony Jaa take the lead here while Ron Perlman and Michael Jai White play backup, and the result is something pretty great for action fans. White gets some licks in – not enough, but we'll take what we can get – but it's Jaa who shines like the goddamn action star that he is. His knees and elbows get a brutal workout when he's not busy punching, kicking, and spinning through the air to collide with bad guys, and he's still a blast to watch in action.

The film's heavy on fights and action set-pieces, but there's also a surprisingly heavy aspect to the plot that's treated with respect rather than an eye for exploitation. Fighting human trafficking is apparently a cause close to Lundgren's heart which led him to getting this movie made, and from its harrowing opening to an ending that satisfies while still respecting the real pain and suffering endured by victims it's a movie deserving of more eyeballs. And I'm not just saying that because I desperately want the sequel setup so beautifully in its final minutes.

Skin Trade is available on Blu-ray/DVD and to stream.

We Will Not Die Tonight (2018)

Kray is a stuntwoman barely making ends meet, but when a reunion with childhood friends reminds her of the trouble they used to get into together it's enough to convince her to go along with a "sure thing" guaranteed to net her some real cash. They agree to deliver some drugs, but the thugs change their minds at the last minute and raise the stakes to involve abducted kids. Kray and her friends refuse and are soon forced to fight their way out of enemy territory.

This action flick from the Philippines riffs on familiar hits like The Warriors (1979), Trespass (1992), and Judgment Night (1993), but it finds its own voice and personality thanks in large part to its lead. She doesn't talk much, but Erich Gonzales is the film's heart as her character pushes forward with raw intensity and determination. It's clear she's no martial artist, but she displays a strong physical presence that makes her a convincing scrapper when necessary.

And by "when necessary" I mean the entirety of the last hour. Fists, guns, knives, hatchets, and more come into play through a steady stream of action beats, fights, and barbarity. This is no stylized action movie – an exception on this list – as the fights are all about survival with people slicing and dicing their way through anyone in their way. It's ugly and often mean-spirited, and the entirety is layered in grit, sweat, and blood. As traditionally unattractive as the violence is, though, writer/director Richard Somes crafts a visually engaging tale with fates spelled out between the shadows. You'll want more from both Somes and Gonzales.

We Will Not Die Tonight is not currently available.

Read about more of the best movies you've never seen.