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Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Raid: Redemption Review

The Raid: Redemption Review
2012, 101 minutes
Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, and language

The Raid: Redemption is the latest in a string of phenomenal films from Sony Pictures Classics (A Separation, In Darkness, Midnight in Paris) and it follows a SWAT team that must invade a 15-story apartment building in Jakarta, Indonesia and capture the gangster that runs it.  However, when they arrive, they are heavily outnumbered.  With this film, Welsh director Gareth Evans puts himself on the international map.  His style is undeniably thrilling and I am eagerly looking forward to the sequel. 

This movie has a bare-bones plot that needs no more explanation than what I gave you above.  However, that is not the point.  The point is the action which is brutal, gory, and thrilling.  The action consists of a mix between Silat martial arts and gun violence.  Evans was one of the action choreographers on the film and some scenes are downright astounding.  They have a forceful nature that propels the film forward most of these scenes are believable; they do not include many death-defying stunts.  The action is bare-bones and takes place in every setting that they could find in the building.  As incredible as the gunfights are, the martial arts scenes are will be the ones that this film will be remembered for.  Most of these scenes take place in a bare room or hallway that simply allows the players to use their hands, nothing else.  That’s not to say that in every other scene the fighters don’t use anything else they can get their hands on. 

Needless to say, this is one of the most violent films I have seen in months.  When I was at the theater last night viewing it, there was a little girl who could not have been more than six years old with her parents.  This movie (and many others with a similar level of violence) makes a strong push for theaters making stricter rules against young kids being able to see hard-R-rated films such as this. 

Overall, The Raid: Redemption is a 100-minute thrill ride that will please fans of pure action cinema.  If you don’t like subtitles, there is not much to read in this lean, mean, action fest.  This movie will most likely appeal to those who love action cinema or those that want to have a good time.

-Joshua Handler

Saturday, March 17, 2012

In Darkness Review

In Darkness Review
2011, 145 minutes
Rated R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality, nudity, and language

What is the deal with the Oscars?  Why do they never recognize foreign directors?  Agnieszka Holland directs this film with such a drive and original manner that it is a shame that she wasn't nominated.  Her film follows a man who, when the Nazis come into Lvov, Poland, hides Jews in the sewers.  The acting is excellent, but this is one film where the story and the craftsmanship are what make it the amazing piece of art that it is.  Much of the film was actually filmed in sewers which, after 145 minutes, makes the film grueling to watch.  I could practically smell the stench and feel the grit that the Jews felt underground, in darkness.  Holland makes full use of her surroundings and captures the claustrophobia and mood like few others could.  Her work here is daring and original.  If I ran the Oscars, she would get a Best Director nomination along with Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) and Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin).

The violence and tension in the film are relentless; the opening scene is a massacre in a forest.  As I was watching this film, I was on the edge of my seat, praying that no other horrifying events would occur.  But, alas, I was wrong.  The entire film is about survival and because of this, nearly every scene is a life-or-death situation.  But, Holland treats the film's subject with the utmost seriousness and respect making none of it feel fake or exploitative.  All I could think about during and after this film was about how genocides still happen and about the extent of man's capacity to do evil.  How could people do what the Nazi's did to others of their same species?  I have thought about this before, but it was especially prevalent after watching 2 1/2 hours of horror.

Though the violence was disturbing, the film was touching.  What touched me most about this film, was the heroism on display here.  I know that we have seen many "gentile-has-a-change-of-heart-and-saves-Jews" films, but this one is especially touching due to the extreme circumstances and the realistic feel of the danger that the main character faced.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, this film is a top-notch piece of work that will move and disturb you like few others could.  When I arrived back at my house, I walked over to my dog and hugged him with tears of pain and the gratefulness to be alive welling up in my eyes.  Do yourself a favor as a human being, see this film.

-Joshua Handler

Bullhead Quick Review

Bullhead Quick Review
2011, 124 minutes
Rated R for some strong violence, language and sexual content

Bullhead is one of the five Best Foreign Language Film Oscar-nominees and is the feature film debut by Michael R. Roskam.  This crime drama centers around the Belgian beef hormone mafia and what happens when Jacky, a haunted, hormone-addicted man, makes a deal with a shady beef trader.  The acting is excellent across the board, but Matthias Schoenaerts is the stand-out as Jacky.  His looming, hulking screen presence is exactly what the film needs.  He acts with very little dialogue which is especially impressive.  The script by Roskam helps Schoenaerts by making his character fascinating and three-dimensional.  Throughout the film, we get glimpses into Jacky's past, building the character.  The story is not wildly different from most other crime movies, but the originality comes from the characters, setting, and the fact that it involves a beef hormone mafia in Belgium.  I really look forward to what Roskam has up his sleeve for any subsequent films because this one is brutal, intense, and very original.

-Joshua Handler