onsdag 20 augusti 2014


The Raid 2 never  went anywhere near Swedish cinemas. It´s a real shame and a betrayal. You might think they´d screen it on an art house cinema of sorts, but no. Real ignorant basterds in my opinion. Anyway, I decided to revisit Gareth Evans first collaboration with Iko Uwais upon the dvd/bluray release of The Raid 2.  And from what I gather of peoples reactions to The Raid 2, I think perhaps Merantau as it has perhaps a bit more fleshed out characterization besides the incredible martial arts might have inspired Evans to approach a sequel to The Raid in a different way.

Iko Uwais plays Yuda, a country bumpkin that is forced to go through a personal journey by leaving the village to become a man. On a personal note I left my town at the tender age of 32 and has yet to become a man but I am working on it.It´s part of my own personal journey but I am just to damn lazy. I also can´t fight for shit.

The personal journey takes him into urban Indonesia where Yuda meet a pair of siblings, down on their luck. They were also unfortunate enough to go through a personal journey. Being sold by their parents and now they have to rely on one another to get by.The sister is forced into strip teasing and a life in the seedy underworld of Indonesia City. Jesus, talk about bad parenting. I hope they at least got good money.[UPDATE! Upon rewatching Merantau I discovered the pair was abandoned by their parents, not sold by them. It´s a difference, but still shitty parenting. Also shitty writing. I need to have a film fresh in mind before writing about it.Good job,idiot.]

Yuda finds a way to apply his martial arts by rescuing the siblings from the despair of urban Indonesia City. and in the process makes enemies of a band of slavers which ends up being Yudas personal journey. Using his powers to save others. Just like Uncle Ben always used to say before he was brutally murdered; "With great powers come great responsibility".* You always remember dead peoples quotes for some reason.

Unfortunately it also leads to Yuda sacrificing himself to save them. Personally I can do without powers if it means I have to sacrifice myself. Because I am a coward and a serious misanthrope. But I certainly admire it in films and it works really well on an emotional level. This is what separate it from other Asian action cinema like Ong-Bak that had rubbish plot and you could not wait for the boring ass drama and dialogue to end. Here it is different. The martial arts is also better. Ong-Bak were too dependent on spectacular stunts than actual choreography, which is why I like the sequels better. They are more weird, less generic and more vibrant films, plot and action-wise.

A really interesting character that Yuda meet early in the film is Eric, played by Yayan Ruhian ( Mad Dog in The Raid, and co-choreographer), who recognizes Yudas personal journey. He´s been there but instead become cynical, selling out his skills to organized crime and the same slave dealer assholes Yuda is up against.It later turns out they  have to fight each other, but Yayan redeem himself in the end by sacrificing himself to save Yuda. Wonderful symmetry there, since that is exactly what Yuda does in the end. Indonesian personal journey leads to suicide  is that it? Is that a cultural thing? If so, that´s depressing!

Merentau not only kicks ass as a martial arts film, but the characterization is surprisingly good. Even the villains seem to have a legitimate back story that is more subtly hinted at. As an origin story to The Raid I might have bullshitted my way here, but as an introduction to  the skills of stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian it is an excellent one and one of the last decades best hardcore actionfilms. Well done, Indonesia!

*Spider-man, Dir:Sam Raimi, Columbia Pictures, 2002

onsdag 9 april 2014


Humphrey Bogart, Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Charles  Bronson.What do they have in common?

They are  the toughest of cinema tough guys and you can add Jason Statham to that bunch.
Because Statham is something special in this day and age. He has the very attitude of a very confident shit-kicker in the demeanor and  the stare and I can´t honestly think of another actor working today that has that same old school tough guy roughness.

Which brings us to Parker.Parker is a literary creation of one Donald Westlake (under the pseudonym Richard Stark).Parker is a 100% professional, pragmatic sociopathic machine. The very definition of an antihero. Previously aaforementioned Lee Marvin portrayed the character in an adaptation of the very first Parker novel The Hunter. the film was John Boormans Point Blank from 1967 and is now considered a genre masterpiece. Later efforts include John Flynns The Outfit with Robert Duvall and Brian helgelands Payback starring mel Gibson. But none of these adaptations actually used the name Parker. Parker starring Jason Statham is the first Parker called Parker.

 Parker, directed by Taylor Hackford  is a great vehicle for Statham, because Parker is a no-nonsense kind of tough guy. Parker in the books was a sociopath,  a very well organized one and not at least , very methodical and practical. He could also be intimidating and extremely violent.

I think it´s important to note that I consider this to be more of a crime thriller than an action film. Because it explains a lot of the narrative construction. The character of Leslie is being given quite extraordinary amount of screen time to develop her character. In a more conventional action film her scenes would have been trimmed down. But I think it´s important to understand why she would help a guy like Parker by explaining how desperate she is. Unfortunately the casting of Jennifer Lopez is to the films detriment. I don´t buy her as a down out of luck real estate agent. I don´t think J-Lo has been desperate once in her life. I don´t think she even has tasted it. Cocks, more likely, but not desperate.

The character of Parker has  also been slightly softened up in this adaptation, with Parker giving out hand outs (ridiculous,really)which makes this possibly the worst adaptation of the character to date. What doesn´t help either are Stahams disguises.. His disguises are almost as bad as the ones Bruce Willis used to wear in the Day of the Jackal remake  and the stetson hat is just embarrasing look on him.

I would have to say as an adaptation of a literary tough guy, Jack Reacher was more successful. However, as miscast that film was, this film is perfectly cast. Unfortunately the  integrity of the character suffer from Hollywood chickenshit pussy assholes by making Parker more bland and inoffensive as a character so as not to scare away numbnut audiences who can´t appreciate a good crime film when they see one.

Why I have to suffer because of idiots is simply a narcissistic self indulgent question, but mainstream audiences can suck my nut-sack. Shame really because the film is pretty good. Hopefully, next time they can get the character right.

måndag 20 januari 2014


This is an interesting transnational kung fu flick displaying unlike most chinese produced kung fu flicks a more positive view on western  foreigners coming into China  than most. Chinese-produced kung fu flicks do. Chinese cinema especially nowadays are keen on upholding the dicotomy of : domestic:GOOOOOOD, foreign:BAAAAD. But RZA´s kung fu homage on old Shaw Brothers movies is much more  fresh in its approach on ethniticity. Maybe it has to do that it is part of the directors approach. Black people has been traditionally oppressed and its history as well. It is time for a fresher, more non-racial kung fu movie. And I love it for that.

Man, I love Fist Of Fury, Once Upon a Time in China Ip Man  and all that. But man do those movies, with scales of differences of course, more or less project a more protectionistic and hostile approach to foriegn influence on the chinese heritage. Especially Once Upon a Time in China were its folk hero Wong fei Hung defeats evil foreigners. Here an english colonial, an american black immigrant and the son of the murdered leader of the lion Clan teams up . I like how their motives intertwine to take down the corrupt Silver Lion.

The plot is a token Shaw Brothers one, with an overambundance of colourful characters,a complex narrative, lush and elaborate sets and complicated martial arts choreography, but with an amazing  ecclectic soundtrack adding to the mix. The framing in the fights are less "stagey" than the usual Hong Kong Cinema compositions, making for much tighter close-ups and intimacy to the fights but is unfortunatly not good enough to rival  the long tradition of showcasing the impressive chinese martial arts on screen. On the other hand there are few real practioners on screen so it can be forgiven. Gordon Liu is one of the few, but he just trains RZA not doing any physical stuff himself.
What really is amazing is seeing Russell Crowe in a straight up kung fu movie. He seems to relish the opportunity of a larger than life character and he truly is memorable in this one. He has a gimmick in form of a rotatable knife and it is used admirably. The other actors are also good, RZA as the weaponsmith is central because he gets the iron fists but also the WWE wrestler Batista as a brassbody motherfucker, also a token of the genre but a really menacing and good foe to fight. Rick Yune ( Die another day, Olympus has fallen) plays the lost son who need to get revenge and is good to see in a different role. 
Which brings me to the lead villain played by Byron  Mann (Belly of the Beast) who I think is a real scene stealer if he gets opportunity to. He does here and he is a tremendous villain. Underrated actor and a great villain.
I think this movie has all the things going for it at this time. It is not an exclusive nationalistic epic kung fu movie like the ones being produced in HK at this very moment but a very transnational one that I feel is a helluva lot better than Ip Man or Legend of the Fist or True Legend.  Those movies are nationalistic at their very nature. But The Man with the Iron fists is something else. It has nothing to do with nation, race or colour. It is about the love of a genre. And that is what should really matter.

onsdag 15 januari 2014


I like a good pretentious genre piece that is unusual and above the ordinary. When it involves a lot of symbolic imagery surrounding hands and karaoke I am all there. People seem to hate Ryan Gosling for his minimalistic approach to acting and they are certianly not gonna like him more after watching this ambivalent revenge tale.
What is particularly great about this is how it completely fucks around with how you normally watch movies. The protagonist is usually the one who gets the largest amount of screen time.Who the protagonist is in this one is not entirely certain..And if you have yet to pick up on King Oidipus you are basically shit out of luck because there are plenty of stuff in here to indicate a connection. Roslings character is Oidipus who in the end gets his hands chopped off, simply cause he ows that. Oidipus cuts his eyes out at the end when he realize his dreadful mistakes and I imagine it works equally here.
Roslings lowlife brother murdered an underaged girl which sets off a violent rampage in Thailand that has to be redeemed just like how in Sophocles tale of redemption the land was rampaged by disease and famine. Someone has to pay. But according to Roslings dominant mother whom he may or may not have a sexual relationship with demands retribution for. It all comes back to Sophocles I think.
A lot of the movie is ambience, sound and atmosphere and I think part of that is what turns people off. They are so used to that genre movies are dumb noisy pieces with lots of spectacle in terms of visual violent pleasure and little brain in them. And when there is actually one with brains they dismiss it. The message is you simply cannot win.Damn!
Kristin Scott Thomas is amazing as the dominant queenbitch supreme gangster boss and a lot of the sceenes with her and Gosling are creepy at best and affirms the Sophocles connection.
Espect violence aplenty and you will be disappointed. This whole tale is about ambivalence. Who really is the perp? The main "villain" (as he would be called in mainstream cinema) is a thai cop out for justice. In a normal american cop movie the focus would have been on him, since the whole instigation is Goslings broters stupid affairs. But since the focus are on the westerners of course we are going to think they are the "good guys". No, they are not. They are despicable people at best. And that is what I love about this unusual revenge story because it takes an unexpected twist to the story.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn has produced extraordinary arthouse genre pieces befor. Drive was certainly a lot less abstract than this one and would have fitted in nicely among Steve McQueens carchasemovies of the seventies.
Only God Forgives is a definite brainchewer and there is a lot I still don´t understand. But as an unusual revengemovie it hits topmarks as far as I am concerned.