The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans, 2011). This movie doesn’t need a critical review, it needs a consumer guide. If on-screen violence bothers you, don’t see this. If you don’t mind on-screen violence, see this. If you aren’t sure, think of lengthy scenes like the hospital in John Woo’s Hard Boiled, or Uma Thurman destroying Lucy Liu’s army in Kill Bill, Volume 1. Now imagine a 100-minute movie where 98 minutes exists on the level of those two scenes. On the level of what is being attempted, The Raid: Redemption is almost entirely successful. The fight scenes use pencak silat, an Indonesian martial arts discipline. They are beautifully choreographed (this is not a CGI-fest), and while it sounds boring, they find enough variations on the basic fights to keep things interesting. Interesting isn’t strong enough … you watch with your mouth open. If you watch, for The Raid (“Redemption” is meaningless) makes no attempt to appeal to anyone but fans of non-stop action. The “plot” never gets beyond “setup”: evil gang lord holes up in a fortress-style apartment complex (15 floors, I think), a SWAT team goes in, the gang lord closes off the building, trapping the SWAT team. There is very little character development, and what turns up is lame. But if you’re the kind of person who finds the very idea of character development wasteful in action movies, you will appreciate that The Raid is dismissive of such “development”. John Woo’s HK movies are better than this because they are more than just action. But Gareth Evans deserves credit for just ignoring everything except action, in the process making the average action movie seem lacking. 8/10. There’s a sequel, which I’ll get to soon.
L’Age d’Or (Luis Buñuel, 1930). Buñuel (and to a lesser extent, Salvador Dalí) succeeded wildly in disrupting society with this film. Its attacks on bourgeois society and the Catholic Church led to a variety of responses, including an early showing where some reactionary audience members threw ink at the screen, an assertion by a Spanish newspaper that it was “the most repulsive corruption of our age”, and its withdrawal from public showings for more than four decades. A 21st-century viewer might miss some of the outrage, but the fundamental disruption, of the audience if not society at large, persists. The film begins with a documentary on scorpions (an actual, existing film with added dialogue). It jumps across many eras, although I confess I only know this because I read about it … it’s one of the things that is unclear to me as one of those 21st-century viewers. Some things are consistent throughout. A man and woman exhibit carnal desires towards each other, which are regularly frustrated by the interference of “society”. The man kicks dogs and attacks blind men, while the woman is so horny she gets off on sucking the toes of statues and making out with her father. During the film, we see cows in beds, carts being driven through homes, dead men stuck on ceilings, all ignored by the self-absorbed bourgeois characters. It doesn’t make “sense” … it’s not supposed to. Oh, and it’s a comedy. It deserves its reputation, and should be seen, but in the end, I don’t feel the need to see it a second time. #116 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. The obvious double-bill would include the other Buñuel/Dalí collaboration, Un Chien Andalou. For late Buñuel, try The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.
Salò, or the 120 days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975). 7/10.