August 23rd, 2014


The Raid 2

The Raid was a surprise smash-hit, helped considerably by the simplicity of its plot: A police captain leads a squad of rookies in a raid on a tower block in a Jakartan ghetto, to capture the gangster that rules the whole block. It goes wrong, and the rookies have to fight their way up, to win. A low-budget concept that could continually re-use sets, it won through on the inventive and visceral fight sequences.

Its sequel takes the Die Hard With a Vengence approach, getting way too much budget and freedom, and produces a poorer film as a result. Picking up almost immediately afterwards, it contrives a scenario where protagonist Rama goes undercover in one gang, who are in an uneasy truce with a second, while a third gang plots to undermine both. There are varied locations, tense moments, double-crosses and shifting loyalties and - god forbid - a car chase. There are some ace fight sequences, and Rama continues to be a force to reckon with, but this film is spread too wide and too thin.

There were some weird things that suggested script re-writes: Yayan Ruhian's character appears in both films, but I thought the character died in the first, and his involvement in the second doesn't go anywhere. Similarly, Rama makes a mistake in his fieldcraft which suggests his cover will be blown, but nothing comes of it.

Overall, a disappointment.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This was a lot better than I expected.

I found the first Cap film to be....okay. Heartfelt, but a little sentimental, and Hydra/Red Skull seemed silly. This film still has the silliness of Hydra infiltrating SHIELD (not a spoiler - its pretty much out there early on in the film), but has a much firmer basis for its position: the war on terror. As with the Civil War comic book, this film takes the approach that the cost of "winning" that war is too high, in terms of civil liberties, and that SHIELD is as much a problem as Hydra. Bravo.

Evans does a fantastic job, evoking Christopher Reeve in his wholesome, earnest, but not cheesy idealist. Johansson gets a much bigger role here than she does in any previous Marvel film, and that's good to see. She does deadpan well, but there's too much where Cap gets to be the rescuer, compared to the Avengers Assemble, where each shone equally.

Jackson also gets plenty to do as Fury, and newcomer Mackie does well as Falcon, a character entirely new to me.

I just rented this, but I liked it enough that I'll probably fork out for a copy.