The buzz word is representation. We all want it, and we want it now. Asian characters have had their nerdy places in many series – Heroes, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, How To Get Away With Murder, Fresh Off The Boat – and take over entire casts in martial art movies. This does leave us with some stereotypes.
“It’s important to see Asian characters of all different types, so hopefully this is another type that you get to see, that’s normalized,” said Jake Choi, who plays Miggy Park on ABC’s comedy Single Parents, in a Teen Vogue article.
Shattering the mould was the 2018 hit movie Crazy Rich Asians – the first Hollywood studio movie in 25 years to feature a majority-Asian cast, and sweet feel-good To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, as well as these other series and movies, now available to stream in South Africa.
HBO’s Warrior (Showmax)
Already famous for two seasons being filmed entirely in Cape Town, Warrior is based on an original concept by none other than Bruce Lee, and brought to life by Jonathan Tropper (Banshee) and Justin Lin (the Fast & The Furious franchise). This is just a small hint at its action awesomeness.
It’s set during the Tong Wars in late 1870s San Francisco, California as Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy played by Andrew Koji, arrives from China in search of his sister.
IMDB rating: 8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 74%
Crazy Rich Asians, 2018 (Showmax)
It says it right there in the title but the wealth of these people is mind boggling. Even the rich ones are in awe of the richer ones, so imagine how we mere mortals feel. Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is invited by her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to accompany him to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. Suspend your disbelief because it’s only when they get on the plane that she begins to have an inkling exactly how ridiculously rich her fella is.
Along with this, she must fend off every jealous socialite in South East Asia and deal with Nick’s domineering mother.
Royalty in the movie and movie royalty in real life, Eleanor Sung-Young is played by Michelle Yeoh, from the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, and the Chinese language martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA.
IMDB rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 91%
Always Be My Maybe, 2019 (Netflix)
The romcom genre is a popular one, it seems. Ali Wong and Randall Park co-wrote this, and they star in it too, as childhood friends Marcus and Sasha who have not been in touch since a brief teenage fling ended badly.
Sasha returns to San Francisco to open a restaurant and finds their romantic chemistry is still there. However, Marcus’s fears and Sasha’s fame and demanding career challenge their potential new relationship.
Look out for the walk-on part by Keanu Reeves, playing himself.
IMDB rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, 2018 (Netflix)
Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) is a senior at high school, and every time she had a massive unrequited crush on a boy, she wrote him a letter detailing her feelings – but didn’t post any of them.
Somewhat surprisingly, there are only five letters, the latest being to her sister Margot’s boyfriend, Josh. Margot breaks up with Josh and goes to college, but observing the sister code – which is the girl code on steroids – Lara Jean adopts a strictly hands-off policy.
Then she goes to school where one of the other crushes confronts her, letter in hand. Shock! Horror! Turns out they’ve all been mailed, leading to massive complications and misunderstandings, including the plan to fake a relationship to make someone jealous – which surely could only be a good idea to adolescents.
This one is the first instalment in the To All the Boys film series and followed by two sequels, To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You and To All The Boys: Always And Forever, Lara Jean, with the first scheduled to be released in February 2020.
IMDB rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 97%
Wu Assassins (Netflix)
With the words “supernatural action crime drama” all in the description, you’re assured of what you’re going to get here. Briefly, “Kai Jin (Iko Uwais) is a Chinese-Indonesian chef in San Francisco’s Chinatown, who learns that he is the last of the Wu Assassins, who are destined to kill the five Wu Warlords, who possess supernatural powers based around fire, wood, earth, metal and water. As the Wu Assassin he has increased physical strength and agility, is able to change his appearance to hide his identity, and can withstand the Wu Lords’ supernatural attacks.”
The Verge says the “plot manages to be both predictable and nonsensical” but it’s saved by “exceptional choreography and bold aesthetic which makes it an action packed delight” according to Rotten Tomatoes.
IMDB rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 81%