5 Dave Bautista movie deep cuts you need to watch
Have a great week, “Dave Bautista has released a new movie,” Polygon readers. We’re extremely excited about M. Night Shyamalan’s new Knock at the Cabin movie, starring Bautista, Jonathan Groff and Rupert Grint. What better time to look back on one of WWE’s most successful former actors and his best roles?
We know you know his turns as Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or as Extremely Dad Scott Ward in Zack Snyder’s thriller Army of the Dead, or as men’s rights influencer Duke. Cody in Glass Onion, or even as the terrifying assassin Mr. Hinx in Specter (which resulted in a broken nose for old Dave).
(And don’t come at me with Dune. The movie is definitely good enough to make the cut here, but Bautista is barely in it.)
But what about beyond? Prior to his current slew of big-budget films, Bautista made many low-budget, direct-to-video action films and other films that may have flown under your radar. And many of them are definitely worth your time.
We’ve rounded up the best of Bautista’s best under-the-radar roles. Each of them capitalizes on their unique charisma and charm, and many use their combat skills as well. (Like Dave, we’re awaiting his rom-com role.)
Master Z: Ip Man Legacy Image: Well Go USA Entertainment
For my money, this is Dave Bautista’s best movie and one of his best roles. Playing the villainous foreigner in a Hong Kong action flick is a right of passage for many Western action stars, and it doesn’t get any better than doing it under the tutelage of legendary fight choreographer and director Yuen Woo. -Ping. He told EW he felt “completely lost” at the start of filming, but quickly adapted.
I was struggling at first, and they kind of wanted to straighten things out and I said, “No! I will adapt to you, because I want to learn this. I am here to work with Woo-Ping, monitor it, study it and see how it works.
A spinoff of the Donnie Yen-led Ip Man franchise (in which every entry is a banger), Master Z focuses on Max Zhang’s character Cheung Tin-Chi from Ip Man 3. You don’t have to to see Ip Man 3 to follow, even if you should, because it’s awesome. Zhang is a young father humbled by his defeat at the hands of Ip Man (spoilers, I guess, but the franchise is named after him) and bumping into the wrong crowd. Bautista plays the beefy restaurant owner and Michelle Yeoh plays the leader of an organized crime syndicate who now wants to go legit. I can’t stress this enough: Master Z rules. —Pete Volk
Master Z: Ip Man Legacy is available to stream on Peacock and Hi-Yah!, free with ads on Tubi, Pluto TV, Plex, The Roku Channel, Freevee, and Crackle, free with a library card on Kanopy or Hoopla, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play and Vudu.
Kickboxer: Vengeance Image: Radar Pictures
A reboot of the Jean-Claude Van Damme-led Kickboxer franchise, Vengeance is essentially a remake of the original film. A young man (Alain Moussi) travels the world and trains to get revenge on the fighter who killed his brother.
Vengeance is filled with DTV martial arts stars – Moussi (Jiu Jitsu) is one of the best cinematic kickers working today, and the film also features Darren Shahlavi (Ip Man 2), professional fighters like Georges St-Pierre ( who has a delightfully drunken fight at the start) and Cain Velasquez, and, of course, a Van Damme sporting a fedora.
Vengeance is solid DTV martial arts revenge with good fights (the film’s fight choreography was done by the very talented Larnell Stovall) and great fighters. There are better actors in the DTV space than Moussi, but few better kickers. He is able to draw dynamic and perfect lines with his kicks, which is always visually pleasing. There’s also a post-credits dance sequence where Moussi mimics JCVD’s famous dance from the original Kickboxer.
But it all leads to Bautista, who plays the iconic villain Tong Po (a role played by Michel Qissi in the original). Tong Po is a brutal Muay Thai expert, and Bautista is fierce and intimidating – amidst a stable of incredible fighters, he stands out with his massive frame and intense gaze. He flexes his pecs, he throws nasty elbows and he has absolutely no mercy. It’s a departure from many of Bautista’s recent roles as a big guy with a heart of gold, allowing him to flex some of his other acting muscles instead. Seemingly invincible, he’s a deadly killer in the ring, setting him up perfectly for a final showdown with our hero.
And although Bautista doesn’t have small glasses in this one, he drinks from a small cup of tea. And what’s better than that? —VP
Kickboxer: Vengeance is available to stream for free with ads on Tubi, Pluto TV, and The Roku Channel, free with a library card on Hoopla, or for rental or digital purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Hotel Artemis Image: Ink Factory
Drew Pearce’s dystopian crime drama Hotel Artemis was widely praised upon its release in 2018 for its world-building and performance. One of the best of the latter comes courtesy of none other than Bautista, who brings a commanding presence and acerbic sense of humor to the role of Everest, the assistant to “nurse” Jean Thomas (Jodie Foster ). Bautista is easily the movie’s breakout performance, delivering hilarious one-liners (“I’ll hunt you down and heal you”) and colder-than-ice threats (“Because Junior, you’re slow code”) with a sense intimidating charm and a personality of its own. Hotel Artemis is a great film, even outside of Bautista’s Everest, but it would be worth watching on the strength of its performance alone. —Toussaint Egan
Hotel Artemis is available to stream on Showtime, free with a library card on Hoopla, or to rent or buy digitally on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play and Vudu.
Riddick Image: Universal Images
As I recently wrote for our list of the best movies leaving streaming in January, 2013’s Riddick is the series’ answer to Mad Max: Fury Road: a soft back-to-basics reboot that pits the antihero against eponym of the film in a battle against mercenaries and the elements of an inhospitable alien planet. Dave Bautista’s character Diaz, a dreadlocked hitman, is the film’s equivalent of Pitch antagonist Black Johns: a corrupt and selfish bounty hunter who double-crosses Riddick in hopes of killing him to claim his bounty and ensure his own escape from the world. Where Bautista’s performance surpasses that of Cole Hauser is in his physique, posing a legitimate threat to Riddick as the two go head-to-head over the fuel knots needed to power. Riddick naturally gets the upper hand, but Diaz pulls off a final “fuck you” move by shooting and disabling the hoverbike Riddick needs to escape before succumbing to his injuries. It’s cool. -YOU
Riddick is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play and Vudu.
Bushwick Image: XYZ Films
I’ll be true, Bushwick is not a good movie. In fact, I think it’s pretty good! But this is a list of Dave Bautista deep cuts, Dave Bautista is very good at Bushwick, and Bushwick is a movie not many people have seen. So it sticks! There are other good things about it, including a light but effective score by Aesop Rock, and a few moments that hint at a much better movie lurking within, but this one’s for die-hard fans of Bautista.
Bushwick follows a young woman (Brittany Snow) who emerges from a subway station in Bushwick to find that a war is raging above (rare in cinema these days, NYC’s attackers in Bushwick are humans). Caught in the crossfire, she heads to a nearby apartment, where she finds Stupe (Dave Bautista), a quiet and reserved military veteran with a troubled past who now works as a janitor. The two unite to cross the combat zone and join their respective family members and their safety.
The movie is yet another attempt at the fake one-take gimmick, which usually doesn’t work for me (although to Bushwick’s credit, there were times when the gimmick used the geography of the neighborhood and its buildings to bring the spectator further into the conflict and the precariousness of the situation of the protagonists). Critically, the film’s attempts to examine the “human element” of crises fall pretty flat (there’s far too much focus on the “horrors of looting” for a film with the compelling “force of unknown invasion at Bushwick”).
But the highlight here is Bautista, who plays Stupe both eerily calm and on the verge of total collapse, as if fighting back tears at every turn. You feel like being in charge of someone to take care of gives them the motivation they need to stick together. It’s a very difficult request, but Bautista answers.
And for gamers, Bushwick was co-written by Graham Reznick, who co-wrote the video games Until Dawn and The Quarry. —VP
Bushwick is available to stream for free with ads on Tubi, free with a library card on Hoopla, or for rental or digital purchase on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.