The Raid 2 (2014): Action / Crime / Thriller

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Straight after the raid’s massacre, Rama goes undercover to expose the corruption within the police force, no matter how deep the rabbit hole goes.

There have not been many sequels that were expected to be better than the first installments. Especially, when the ones that spawned the sequels were shockingly good. Well, “The Raid 2” is one of these exceptions with Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais pushing the bar to the limit.

Starting two hours after “The Raid: Redemption” (2011), ending up two years later, “The Raid’s 2” uncut violence almost tripled the body count, got banned by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia, was censored in the US, got an audience member faint at the Sundance Film Festival world premiere, and mesmerised millions of martial arts fans, and action junkies all over the world.

With the first cut being around three and a half hours long, the final cut is still almost 50 minutes longer than the first “Raid”. 150 minutes of gory deaths, phantasmagoric car chases, extreme martial arts, over 60 types of guns, police corruption, mob hits, Rama going berzerk, and… “Hammer Girl”, “Baseball Bat Man”, and “The Assassin”.

Directing, Editing, DOP, Choreography, Stunt coordination, and all cast and crew deserve a standing ovation. An amazing opening sequence, with a stunning second act, and a grand finale fight scene which took 6 weeks to prepare and 8 days to film. An ABSOLUTE MUST!!!

 

P.S. If you are interested, this is how Gareth Evans shot the “how-the-f@!#-did-they-do-that” car chase scene: (IMDb, 2019)

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The Raid: Redemption (2011): Action / Thriller

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When a S.W.A.T. team raids a 30-storey building run by a drug dealer and his army, the tables turn and the hunter becomes the prey.

After “Merantau” (2009), Indonesian-born Iko Uwais collaborates for a second time with Welsh-born Gareth Evans and a low budget action/thriller turns into a high octane, brutal, fast-paced, bloody massacre. The Indonesian, indigenous martial art style Pencak Silat faces numerous other martial arts from all over the world. Combining fists, elbows, knees, kicks, ground techniques, locks, and more, people fly down the stairs and go through doors, walls, and windows. To top it up, they get chopped up by knives, machetes, and swords, and have their brains blown up by pistols, shotguns, machine guns, and grenades in “30 floors of chaos”. Another day in the office…

Highly recommended for the action-packed film lovers and example to follow for the big budget, nonsensical blockbusters. Also, Yayan Ruhian and Joe Taslim will make your jaw hit the floor!

Revenger (2018): Action / Crime / Thriller

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An ex-cop shows up in a prison island, shared by 12 Asian countries, where convicts are left to die, with the sole purpose to find his family’s killer and avenge their death.

This one went totally under the radar. The story doesn’t even remotely resemble something that could have happened in reality so, should you decide to watch it, don’t pay too much attention to the parts that don’t make too much sense. Why would you watch it then?

Bruce Khan! As per IMDb, he is the holder of:

  • A 4th-degree black belt in Hapkido,
  • A 4th dan in Korean Karate,
  • A 5th dan in Korean Kwal Bup,
  • A 4th dan in Korean Kyeoktooki.

And he is a lot more than that as a person. Like Bruce Lee, he had a severe back injury only to come back stronger. Hats off! He possesses agility, accuracy, speed, power… Honestly, I was not aware of the chap but I’m glad I got to know him. Certainly, I would have omitted certain characters and sequences in the film but once you watch it you’ll see why it was worth your while. Enjoy!

Triple Threat (2019): Action / Thriller

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Mercenaries unite in order to protect the daughter of a billionaire who becomes the target of an elite assassins’ group.

“Triple Threat” is NOT, I repeat is NOT to be compared, contrasted, or associated in any way with: “Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior” (2003), the “Undisputed” franchise (2006-2016), “The Raid: Redemption” (2011), “The Raid 2” (2014), “The Night Comes for Us” (2018), or any other film of that level.

It’s a real shame to have names such as Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Hu Chen, Scott Adkins, Celina Jade, Michael Jai White, and Michael Bisping in one film and get that result. But the film’s duration warned me even before watching it. So, I was pretty sure this was going to be a disappointing one, I just didn’t know how badly disappointing.

In about an hour and a half, we have:

  • Undeveloped characters that no one really cares about.
  • Bad acting / No chemistry between the actors.
  • Obvious difficulty from the non-native English speaking actors to express themselves.
  • Mediocre action / inconsistent fighting skills.
  • And the biggest problem that begets all problems: Horrible writing! I mean… Horrible!!!

As it is not in my idiosyncrasy to write negative comments just for the fun of it or to attract an audience so, I’ll stop here. Prachya Pinkaew, Gareth Evans, and Timo Tjahjanto have raised the bar to a level that newer directors and even themselves will have to go the extra mile to keep delivering the jaw-dropping action/thriller films they have been delivering so far.

He’s Out There (2018): Horror / Thriller

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A family vacation at a lakehouse becomes a nightmare for a mother and her two young daughters who become part of a psychopath’s deranged fantasy.

The oversaturation got me thinking from the opening shot. “Is there a purpose”? “What does this DOP offer to the story”? Anyway, the story itself showed signs of unoriginality since the early stages. The journey started, they made it to the house and, thankfully, the tension started building up and becoming interesting. And then, the uncreativeness came back stronger and ruined the film with tons of cliches and a high level of improbability.

Yvonne Strahovski has proven to be a versatile actress with tremendous potential. Even in a film like “He’s Out There”, she’s very convincing and she was the only reason I watched the film. Anna and Abigail Pniowski are not to blame for their performances here. This burdens solely the director.

Shame really as the potential was there. “Old wine in a new bottle” doesn’t mean to copy randomly (and badly) existing, successful styles, mix them up and paste them in a new movie.

Scenic Route (2013): Drama / Thriller

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Two lifelong friends decide to go on a journey following the scenic route but their car breaks down, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere and surfacing suppressed feelings of a lifetime.

Indie, low budget, and absolutely stunning! The Goetz Brothers’ Drama/Thriller, penned by Kyle Killen, disguises itself as a dark comedy and makes you laugh out loud with its sheer brutality, and Josh Duhamel’s and Dan Fogler’s raw, natural talent. Laugh out loud and, admittedly, think to yourself “Damn, I wish I had said that when…”. The thought-provoking and carefully written story, the meticulous mise-en-scene, and the profound acting create a highly entertaining and compelling journey of self-discovery.

Beware though! As much as the journey itself is a reward, this one’s destination is a spine-chilling thrill. With a jaw-dropping twist that glues you to your seats, the grand finale, accompanied by Mike Einziger’s mesmerising soundtrack, takes your breath away and stays imprinted long after the end credits scroll down.

Don’t miss out!

Animal World (2018): Adventure / Thriller

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Haunted by his personal demons, a man finds himself struggling with an unbearable debt and enters a world of obscure gambling where every move might be his last one.

Epically mental! An amalgamation of “Scott Pilgrim vs The World” (2010) and “Sucker Punch” (2011), masterfully put together with pure Chinese artistry and temperament. Remake of the Japanese film “Kaiji Ultimate Gambler” (2009) – an adaptation of the “Kaiji” manga series – “Animal World” mesmerises straight from the opening sequence and earns its stripes in the evolution of Chinese cinema.

Through brilliant editing and directing, and visual effects that bring the hero’s cognitive manifestations to life, director Yan Han unfolds a world within a world. A cosmos where love, brotherhood, perseverance, loyalty, and betrayal lead to one’s self-discovery and ultimately… their destiny. A journey revealing that math’s complexity pales in comparison with human nature’s intricacy. A life’s lesson that man came from an animal… and still remains one.

 

For Shiying. Thank you!!!

Upgrade (2018): Action / Sci-fi / Thriller

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In a world that technology controls every aspect of life, a technophobe not only finally embraces it but also upgrades himself to solve his wife’s murder.

Producer/Writer/Director Leigh Whannell, who penned the script for “Saw” (2004), and Blumhouse Productions bring to life an action/thriller that mustn’t go unnoticed. Logan Marshall-Green gets into the role and does a brilliant job as an ordinary man who’s going through… an upgrade and comes out extraordinary.

Visual effects that help the story move forward and the story itself easily avoids cliches and gimmicks. A highly recommended, low-budget sci-fi set in an ostensibly utopian future but with a lot more realism than meets the eye.

Hollow in the Land (2017): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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While their father is facing time for his notorious crime, two siblings, just for having his name, have to face society.

Dark, existential, real, and made in Canada! Low budget, indie film that went under the radar due to, mostly, negative reviews. The depiction of a small society can be negative for numerous reasons but it can also be, unfortunately, painfully realistic. Every character plays a role that moves the story forward, towards a path that human perception of love, bigotry, reputation, and family values counts and shapes society as we know it.

Feature debut of the very promising writer/director Scooter Corkie with Dianna Agron, Shawn Ashmore, and Jared Abrahamson leading strong. Daring and thought-provoking, “Hollow in the Land”, deserves your attention as it opens the door to the kind of cinema that impresses with its simplicity while portraying something so intricate… Us!

Prospect (2018): Drama / Sci-fi / Thriller

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Father and daughter land on a planet’s remote, exotic moon to harvest precious gems and get rich but between merciless people and dangerous forest dwellers, escaping becomes the ultimate goal.

Directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl shoot the feature version of their homonymous short, on a $3.9m budget. And the result pays off. Well directed, well paced and well acted, “Prospect” invests in a claustrophobic opening sequence and amazing shots from space. While on the ground, intentionally or unintentionally, the film can be pitched or could have been pitched or maybe it was as “Mad Max in an alien moon”.

Films like “Prospect” make me more optimistic. It is an indie, low budget sci-fi that pays respect to the genre and the art of cinema with cast and crew fully supporting and believing in it. And so did the fans who applauded its minimalism at the festivals and didn’t care if props and costumes were handmade by, among others, cosplayers!

Inspirational! Well done!