18 April 2014
I think its hard not to watch Asian martial arts films and not wonder about the influences Kurosawa has had on the whole genre – The Raid 2 is one of the very best I’ve seen and the influences are quite overt. For those who don’t know, The Raid was one of the surprise hits from two years ago. It was a low budget Indonesian action movie made, curiously, by a Welshman, which reinvigorated the whole genre. It was quite simply the purest, most exciting action film I’ve seen in years.
Anyway, there is a much bigger and even better sequel out now (the director claims this is the film he originally intended to make, but couldn’t get the budget so made the much simpler original one instead). It is staggeringly violent, very complex, and has about 6 set piece fight scenes which would be the highlight of most other films. The last 15 minutes is mind-bogglingly intense.
The Guardian refers twice to Kurosawa in its articles – in its interview with Gareth Evans he says he was brought up watching Kurosawa films, and Peter Bradshaw directly references Kurosawa in his typically pithy and amusing review. I can see where he is coming from – there is a fight scene in a muddy prison yard in the film which you could easily imagine Kurosawa as having directed (and seems indirectly influenced by the last battle in Seven Samurai). A lot of critics have complained about the slow plotting between the fight scenes, but personally I think its really good and well acted, although trying to keep up with the various names and actors is difficult at times. But the plot is only 10% of a film like this, its all about the action, and the action is astonishingly well choreographed and shot – and it is all real stunt action, no CGI to be seen, thankfully.
This is the sort of film I feel vaguely embarrassed at enjoying. It is absolute pure escapism, while also very violent. The plot is clearly influenced by the Hong Kong ‘Infernal Affairs‘ films – a lot of reviewers point out similarities to the Godfather, but I think the real base influence would be The Bad Sleep Well. There are also strong echoes of recent Korean films in the hyper stylised sets. It can also be described as one reviewer did as John Woo meets Quentin Tarantino. As you can guess, this means there is very little original in the film. But really, who cares when its this good?
25 April 2014
Never heard of the film, nor the one that preceded it, but I put it onto my list. Good action films are few and far in between these days, as action based video games have I think taken their audience.
Did you ever happen to watch Dredd from a couple of years back? It’s one of my favourites, but then again I tend to gravitate towards dystopian futures. Quite violent and well shot. Same director who helmed the awful Rashomon inspired Vantage Point, but this time the script is much stronger. Written by Alex Garland, too. There are rumours that despite the poor theatrical performance, they are attempting a sequel based on the strong home video sales.
Did you ever happen to watch Dredd from a couple of years back?
I missed that – I rarely go to that type of film in the cinema these days, I find teenagers in the cinema too annoying! But a lot of comments on The Raid reference Dredd, so there does seem to be a connection.
It does seem that these films do better now in home entertainment. I believe the Raid II has been a disappointment in the cinema (in the US at least). But they are assuming it will be a big hit on dvd (The Raid III is already under way I believe). And also of course there is the inevitable US remake.
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