A San Franciscan chef becomes the latest in a century old line of assassins, to take on the role of “Wu Assassin”. Matters become complex when his own adopted father holds the mantle of Fire Wu. As the complexity of his situation grows, Kai relies on members of his adopted family to help him fight against the immortal Wood Wu, who seeks to bring his family back from death.
From the beginning sequence, “Wu Assassins” does put forth a somewhat campy vibe. In particular, when dealing with the fantasy elements of the production, it hearkens back to serial TV series of the 90’s that focus heavily on fantasy action. This aspect of the production is either going to act to endear or detour, growing up during the heyday of series like “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules”, the production has an oddly nostalgic feeling to it. Certain scenes, such as Kai training to fight the stone Wu by punching a large CGI boulder, had a certain amount of camp which endeared me to the production. However, it would be an understandable deterrent to others. This can also be mimicked in the action sequences to a degree; not that some are particularly bad, but they feel more choreographed, and sometimes silly given the show’s premise. Overall, the action sequences are still a definite highlight, but with such a stellar action star in Iko Uwais, anything less would be surprising.
“Wu Assassins” does have some pacing issues, since there is a lot of world building across the first several episodes, and with the final introduction of the remaining Wu warriors, these stories feel rushed and ultimately meaningless. With the appearance of both the water and metal Wu, their inclusion in wanting the Wood Wu to succeed is rather vague and if anything, counter intuitive, given that it does not seem to benefit either of them in the end. The final showdown is also anticlimactic and feels rushed. There is a possibility of a further season given the ending, but it seems arbitrarily tackled on and does not really hint at an adventure that would hold much interest, with most of the major conflict resolved. The ending statement that Kai Jin is still needed as the assassin to come with the answer of “for what?”, is not a strong way to build anticipation for a second series.
The strongest aspect of the production has to lie within the cast, and the dramatic elements are probably the film’s most endearing feature. Iko Uwais has become rather synonymous with some of the best martial arts films to date, and in good reason. On top of his physical skill, he is a competent actor who conveys emotion well. Seeing Iko Kawais able to hone his acting chops further in a long series was a real pleasure to watch. The supporting cast, specifically the members of Kai’s adopted family, excel in both the drama and action sequences. Unfortunately, the antagonists of the film don’t fare as well, although Tommy Flannagan gives a good performance as the Wood Wu, despite the fact that his character is poorly written, with a rushed background story and anticlimactic conclusion. This is amplified in the roles of the Metal and Water Wu, whose reasoning to be included seems more as a means to an end, than a compliment to an epic war.
“Wu Assassins” unfortunately loses a lot of steam as the series progresses, with rushed story lines that downplay the implied levity of the show’s premise. Fans of Iko Uwais should enjoy the production for his inclusion, and for my own experience a degree of nostalgia helped draw me into the story. Overall, “Wu Assassins” becomes passable entertainment that is hard to recommend outside of being a guilty pleasure, or in showing support towards the talented cast