Tag Archives: action movies

Movie Review: The Raid 2: Berandal

by Dan Fields

Iko Uwais brings more brutal justice in The Raid 2
© 2014 Merantau Films / XYZ Films

We Built This City On Pencak Silat

In 2011, Welsh director Gareth Huw Evans left scorched bootprints on international cinema with his third feature film, Serbuan Maut, also known as The Raid, released widely as The Raid: Redemption. Many of us had never before seen the elegant brutality of pencak silat, the martial arts of Indonesia. An action thriller chronicling a police raid on a crime-infested slum, The Raid transcended expectations with its deft juxtaposition of sustained, extreme violence and the satisfying rhythm and artistry of a well-staged ballet. True, it was a ballet of broken backs, split skulls, exit wounds and shattered glass, but the results were astounding. Now, with the running time nearly doubled and a full cast of bizarre characters lined up to scrap, The Raid 2 (subtitled Berandal, meaning “rogue” or “thug”) blows the storm of justice from an isolated fracas to the merciless cleansing of a city gone to hell.

The Raid 2 begins on the same day as the events of the previous film. Elite cop Rama (Iko Uwais), still battered from the catastrophic siege, has brought his corrupt superior officer and a cache of incriminating evidence to Chief Bunawar (Cok Simbara). Bunawar, the head of a task force to root out corruption in Jakarta’s police force, enlists Rama to infiltrate the highest ranks of the city’s criminal class.
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Movie Review: Pacific Rim

by Dan Fields

Robots fight monsters in Guillermo del Toro's kaiju epic Pacific Rim
© 2013 Warner Bros. / Legendary Pictures

Hurricane Season’s All Right For Fightin’

By the end of this year, film enthusiasts will never again have to explain the concept of kaiju to bewildered laymen. A Japanese word roughly meaning “giant beast” or “monster,” this blanket term refers to a popular genre of films about city-crushing creatures such as Gojira (Godzilla), Gamera, Megalon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. For decades, most people have known what a kaiju is, but until Pacific Rim, there were many who did not know that they knew.

This is only one virtue of a movie that gets almost everything right, and whose various minor flaws cannot dampen an overall sense of triumph. We will escape this summer with at least one fully satisfying action blockbuster, and this is it. Continue reading

Movie Review: Man Of Steel

by Dan Fields

Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel reimagines the Superman story

© 2013 Warner Brothers

“Clark Kent… now there was a real gent.”

At one point in Man Of Steel, a young Clark Kent, wrestling with the overwhelming onset of his superpowers, laments to his mother that the world is too big for him. “Then make it small,” replies Ma Kent. This is not one of the film’s best scenes, but the lesson could have been useful. Director Zack Synder, as well as writers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer (of the Dark Knight saga) know a lot about spectacle and scale and heroes and villains, but not one of them seems to understand “making it small” as a practical storytelling strategy.

Given the amount of money and creative freedom that these men probably had at their fingertips for a new Superman project, it would be hard for anyone to resist the temptation to pack the movie as full as possible of absolutely everything. Man Of Steel is simply too much, swaddling about seventy minutes of outstanding Superman material in eighty more of muddled narrative and extraneous action climaxes.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Dark Knight Rises

by Dan Fields
First published December 10, 2012 by the California Literary Review
Batman faces Bane in the Dark Knight Rises

© 2012 Warner Brothers/DC Comics
Photo by Ron Phillips

This year, the latest chapter of an enduring legend bids us farewell. Christopher Nolan, whose unexpected helming of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight helped boost him as a filmmaking force, brought his vivid interpretation of the Caped Crusader to a stunning conclusion. Though occasionally problematic in many of the same ways at its predecessors, The Dark Knight Rises achieves new levels of excitement and emotional satisfaction as it brings its legend full circle. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Battle Royale: The Complete Collection

by Dan Fields
First published March 26, 2012 by the California Literary Review
Battle Royale: The Complete Collection on Blu-Ray

Despite never having been officially banned in North America, Battle Royale suffered de facto censorship through non-distribution, despite its popularity in Japan and among lucky film festival crowds who caught it in rare runs abroad. Over the last decade or so, bootlegs and other mysterious video editions of the film began seeping into Western markets until, clearly, demand won out, and now Kinji Fukasaku’s visionary epitaph (his sixtieth feature film) takes its rightful place in international film history. This is no longer a film you should acquire in whatever third-hand, semi-legal format you can arrange. Battle Royale is yours for the asking in a handy-dandy, thoroughly excellent Blu-Ray package. Continue reading

Movie Review : Captain America: The First Avenger

by Dan Fields
First published July 23, 2011 by the California Literary Review

Must Be the Recession…

Captain America has a lot riding on his shoulders, not merely in his own war-torn world but in the dangerously ambitious Marvel Studios project of bringing the Avengers and their various associates together in a convoluted crossover web of summer blockbusters. The difficult truth is that since Jon Favreau’s runaway smash Iron Man, each successive entry has brought the average of the franchise down.

Sadly, Captain America is no exception. For a movie about super soldiers, world domination, and rogue Nazi occultists, it packs surprisingly little punch. The flaw is not in the premise, but in the execution. Long stretches go by without a joke sticking, a blow landing, or an emotion ringing true. Thor was no masterpiece, but at least Kenneth Branagh had the sense to keep things in constant motion, and managed to make a movie as exciting as it was silly.
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Movie Review: Thor

by Dan Fields
First published May 07, 2011 by the California Literary Review

What? No showdown with John Henry?

Once upon a time in the New Mexico desert, there lived a brilliant young astrophysicist with fabulous hair, whose obsessive devotion to the study of aberrant gravitational fields masked a lonely, vulnerable side which made her all the more adorable. Lucky for her, the perfect specimen of Nordic manhood was just about to tumble from the heavens.

Could it be…. Thor, God Of Thunder?
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Movie Review: Drive Angry 3D

by Dan Fields
First published February 26, 2011 by the California Literary Review

Holy Gracious Hell

Taking into account all the casual profanity, copious T&A, comic book violence, awesome cars and impossibly badass gunfights, Drive Angry must surely have been written by the smartest group of fourteen-year-old boys living in America today. This is not meant to sound as snide as it probably does. Assuming that any two of those things just mentioned ever held a prominent place in your adolescent fantasy, you may find yourself thoroughly entertained against your better judgment. Conversely, anyone who has outgrown or never entertained the dream of meeting a gorgeous blonde who drives fast, punches hard and loves to cuss, might find this movie just a touch juvenile. Think of it as a big bucket of Halloween candy for the eye and the lower parts of the brain, and you will be ready to approach it in the proper spirit.
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Movie Review: The Mechanic

by Dan Fields
First published January 29, 2011 by the California Literary Review

Hyperviolent Marshmallow Fluff

Jason Statham, the icy British actor famous for jacked-up action romps including The Transporter and Crank, returns to bust heads at a more thoughtful pace in The Mechanic, a remake of Michael Winner’s 1972 film of the same name, which starred Charles Bronson.

Arthur Bishop is a special breed of contract killer – a mechanic – who specializes in “clean” assignments, in which a murder is staged either to look like an accident or to frame an innocent third party. Thus he plots his operations intricately from a hip, ultra-modern pad stashed away in the south Louisiana swamps. He has a very neat little operation going on until he gets a contract to kill his long-time mentor and friend, a suitably grizzled Donald Sutherland. Rattled by guilt over the hit and suspicious about its motives, he determines to get to the bottom of it, enlisting the help of his victim’s ne’er-do-well son Steve (Ben Foster of Pandorum) who is unaware of Bishop’s own complicity in the killing.
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