4 Movies Like Sayen: Desert Road (2023)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Sayen: Desert Road ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

The filmmakers behind this direct sequel to the Indigenous action thriller Sayen clearly learned from the mistakes of that first film: all the emotion that was missing then finds a new home here, as the titular protagonist finally gets to grieve what she's lost, in a way that's touchingly close to her cultural beliefs. Desert Road also ups the action considerably, this time borrowing liberally from desert-set films like Mad Max—the sun-drenched expanses of sand are somehow much more beautiful than the forests of the first movie. And Rallen Montenegro continues to refine this character's emotional depth.Still, partially as a result of the fact that the first installment gave this sequel little to work with, Desert Road can't help but feel more ordinary and more distant from real-world struggles touched upon previously. The actual thrills in this thriller plot aren't particularly intriguing, as several subplots mash together without as much effect on the main plot as intended. At the end of the day, this still seems like it's been made with the action movie template in mind first, rather than having the story and characters lead the style of the storytelling.

An all-female action comedy that doesn’t get self-serious about the way it’s subverting the genre — Wingwomen feels like a breath of fresh air. It wisely grasps that plot isn’t paramount for a movie like this, and so it joyously dunks on cerebral scenarios with its unabashedly silly story convolutions, like when its professional thieves take a brief pause from their momentous One Last Job™️ to sail to Italy and exact bloody, flamenco-delivered revenge on the gangsters who killed their beloved rabbit. Exotic Mediterranean location-hopping isn’t the only way Wingwomen milks Netflix’s finance department for all it can get, either: director-star Mélanie Laurent also packs in all manner of stunts, from spectacular base-jumping sequences to dramatic drone shootouts. 

For all its breezy style, though, there is real heart here, and not the kind that feels crafted by an algorithm. It’s true that a late twist unwisely uses the movie’s embrace of implausibility for emotional ends, but otherwise, the relationship between its professional thieves — ostensibly platonic but very much coded otherwise (a la Bend It Like Beckham) — has surprisingly sincere warmth. Thanks to the cast’s natural chemistry and characters that feel human despite the ridiculous plot, Wingwomen is much more moving than you might believe possible for a Netflix action-comedy.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Annick Roux, Aurélien Gabrielli, Camille Verschuere, Felix Moati, Foued Nabba, Isabelle Adjani, Jean-François Perrone, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Leona D'Huy, Manon Bresch, Mélanie Laurent, Meriem Serbah, Myriam Azencot, Philippe Katerine

Director: Mélanie Laurent

Rating: R

Pushing an already extreme activity even further beyond its limits, Ueli Steck and Dani Arnold have became the world champions of speed climbing—a variation of the sport that places much greater importance on direct competition over communing with nature. It's fascinating to hear what drives Steck and Arnold to courting death like this, and to see how their vastly different backgrounds and processes have still made them equals in the field. The documentary eventually runs out of ideas, however, as it clumsily shifts tones leading into its last third, and concludes abruptly without much synthesis of everything that had come before. It's still a worthwhile adventure whether or not one is into climbing; it's just disappointing that this story of such a unique rivalry settles into a more generic rhythm by the end.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Documentary

Actor: Dani Arnold, Ueli Steck

Director: Götz Werner, Nicholas de Taranto

Rating: PG-13

Crypto Boy may seem, at first, to primarily warn against the allure of cryptocurrency, but at heart, it’s a family drama centered around an ambitious man and his immigrant Egyptian father. The Dutch Netflix film is actually a whole family affair, with writer-director Shady El-Hamus casting his brother Shahine and their father Sabri Saad in a real and relatable struggle between generations. That being said, the film is definitely less interested in the actual cryptocurrency scam presented. It takes such a predictable route that the protagonist comes off as foolish, rather than understandably ambitious. With his parallel to the villain, the film seems like it wants its viewers to empathize with the rich Mark Zuckerberg-wannabe, rather than cathartically put him through the consequences. This makes the film feel as disappointing as the crypto promises, as viewers are lured into the film for this, but come out with another thing entirely.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aus Greidanus, Hannah van Lunteren, Jonas Smulders, Kendrick Etmon, Leny Breederveld, Loes Schnepper, Manoushka Zeegelaar-Breeveld, Minne Koole, Raymond Thiry, Shahine El-Hamus, Tobias Kersloot

Director: Shady El-Hamus

Though it borrows from some of the oldest genre tropes—stoic but kind-hearted hero finding a heart in a community that needs his help—Jigen Daisuke still manages to carve out a visual identity that has one foot rooted in its Lupin III manga origins, and another in noir fiction. The world of the film is beautifully lit and feels bustling with activity, as are the frenetic action scenes that turn gleefully silly with the sheer amount of gunfire being sprayed everywhere. That said, the movie can't handle the number of plates it tries to spin, as side characters fail to develop more meaningfully and its more exciting parts are diluted by long stretches of drama that aren't as engaging as the film thinks they are. This feels like a sampler for the kinds of stories the title character could be involved in in the future, but little else.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Akihiko Sai, Eugene Nomura, Honami Sato, Kazuki Namioka, Kotoka Maki, Masatoshi Nagase, Mitsuko Kusabue, Rina Sakuragi, Takashi Sasano, Tetsuji Tamayama, Toru Baba, Yasukaze Motomiya, Yoji Tanaka, Yôko Maki, Yuuki Tsujimoto

Director: Hajime Hashimoto

Rating: PG-13