“THE RAID: REDEMPTION”
THE RAID: REDEMPTION is, by and large, an extremely action packed film and a ripe example of a culmination of one shift in aesthetic tastes in contemporary cinema, an increased and more explicit level of violence. Here, an Indonesian SWAT team is tasked with taking down a crime lord who lives in a fifteen story apartment complex that is both a safe haven for criminals and a fortress designed to keep rivals out. Floor by floor, this police squad must fight their way to the top to take down their prime target. THE RAID features some of the finest fight choreography in recent memory with roughly two-thirds of the film depicting some form of combat. Gareth Evans’ blocking maximizes the brutality shown on screen and the imagery recalls ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 as well as STARSHIP TROOPERS. The storyline is fairly straightforward, but the frantic pacing and high tempo editing makes for an enthralling viewing experience. THE RAID: REDEMPTION belongs near the top of the pantheon of contemporary Pan-Asian cinema and is a modern action classic.
“THE FORBIDDEN ROOM”
A woodsman mysteriously appears aboard a submarine that hasn’t surfaced for months and whose crew is on the brink of perishing due to lack of oxygen and an unstable cargo: such is the story of THE FORBIDDEN ROOM. Guy Maddin’s penchant for nonlinear storytelling and the bizarre is on full display; the narrative jumps from an instructional video on how to take a bath to a song about a man who’s obsessed with women’s derrieres to the importance of a father’s mustache to his family. It is a blending of surrealism à la David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD or MULHOLLAND DRIVE and early German expressionism favorites like NOSFERATU or THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. Maddin’s imagery is striking, vibrant, and fluid; some scenes are heavily stylized while others prefer a soft 16mm feel, complete with scratches and other imperfections. Faces shift and melt into one another giving the film a dreamlike quality that lends itself to the film’s psychedelic undertones. Intertitles have long been in the director’s repertoire and he uses them in lieu of dialogue or to further emphasize the strange actions shown on screen–the words are just as alive as the cryptic images themselves. As much as Maddin’s visual style is a pastiche, so too are his familiar themes and obsessions. THE FORBIDDEN ROOM is no exception: the tone shifts throughout (bleakness, irony, and the horrific stand out) and human fears— of drowning, of being alone, of the unknown—are frequently coupled with sexual undertones. The result is another confounding (and rewarding) work that challenges easy interpretations.
Joel and Ethan Coen burst onto the independent film scene in 1984 with their first release, BLOOD SIMPLE. Richard Corliss of Time magazine described it best by saying, “A debut as scarifyingly assured as any since Orson Welles.” After a thirty-plus year career with some twenty-odd entries, it still ranks among their best works. BLOOD SIMPLE’s brilliance lies in its straightforwardness. Although shot on a very small budget and with a relatively unknown cast at the time (including the proficient Frances McDormand in her very first role), the film outperforms its modest inception, elevating itself with sophisticated nuance and the Coens’ technical and writing savvy. As with many of their films, the storyline is rather simple; a woman runs off from her husband with another man; revenge is sought and goes very wrong. The sublime editing, which has become a Coen trademark by now, allows each scene to flow into the next effortlessly. BLOOD SIMPLE is an astonishingly strong debut film by two of the greatest independent film directors of our time; it’s a neo-noir that is as enthralling as it is nightmarish.