Gianna Jun in Assassination (2015)

Members of the Korean resistance plan a strike against the occupying Japanese and traitors working against their own people.

Like the recent The Age of Shadows, this South Korean film is a beautifully crafted period action piece with fantastic production design and memorable choreography. Jun is one of a trio of leads and plays the sniper of the group, but while sharpshooting is her main contribution, her skills extend to more close quarters gun play as well. We see her taking out the enemy from afar through the scope of her rifle and in more hectic situations with handguns, all of it leading up to a glorious sequence that turns a wedding into a free fire bloodbath of rebels, oppressors, and unlucky guests.

Jun will always be My Sassy Girl for some viewers, but the latter half of her career has proven more interesting with action-oriented roles in the likes of Blood: The Last Vampire, The Berlin File, and The Thieves. She doesn’t get into the fisticuffs here that marked some of those other films, but her action chops are every bit on display, whether she’s fighting on a rooftop or the roof of a moving truck.


Olga Kurylenko in Momentum (2015)

A high-tech thief is drawn into a conspiracy involving murder, deception, and treason at the highest levels.

I will go to my grave defending Quantum of Solace as the second best Daniel Craig/James Bond film (of the four currently produced), but I swear my love for the film and for Kurylenko’s atypical Bond girl isn’t influencing this film’s inclusion here. Instead, this is just a fun, well-crafted action movie that sees Kurylenko’s thief put through her paces in an effort to both survive and get to the bottom of what’s happening. She gets to dabble in gunfights and car chases, but she shines during a handful of fight sequences revealing the energetic and scrappy brawler within.

One of the highlights sees her squaring off against a brutal assassin in an otherwise peaceful suburban home, and it’s a suspenseful sequence as well as an entertaining one thanks to the presence of a young child who she’s trying to protect even as she’s getting slammed into walls. Kurylenko’s no stranger to action, having starred in the first Hitman film as well as the second best Daniel Craig/James Bond film, but it’s here where she really gets to shine as a far more active participant. The film almost sets up a sequel, and while we’ll never get to see it I’d be first in line if it ever actually came to fruition.

nowhere girl

Nana Seino in Nowhere Girl (2015)

A teenager with a mysterious past walks the halls of an art school until it comes time to fight.

This Japanese feature is probably the least known of the six on this list and definitely the hardest to find, but action junkies with healthy reserves of patience will want to seek it out. It’s a short movie, but the first hour or so is pure, dreamy calmness. Some chatty classmates and a handful of earthquakes break our hero’s trance, but it’s not until the final fifteen minutes that the film bursts into bloody action perfection. It’s here where Seino excels as she unleashes hell on dozens of soldiers through martial arts, blade work, and gun play. She high kicks and punches her way through the men when she’s not slashing their Achilles tendons or filling them full of lead.

Seino’s probably best known (or only known) stateside for her supporting role in Sion Sono’s wonderfully odd Tokyo Tribe, where she also went to town on some bad guys with her formidable skills. My guess is even those who have started watching Nowhere Girl gave up well before the final, explosive act. It’s tough to fault someone for doing that, but if you get the chance to give the film another try, I highly recommend it. Maybe that means you fast forward to the good stuff, that’s your call, and I’m not going to judge, but either way you’ll want to watch what Seino does in this film’s final fifteen minutes.

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