“but that’s how it was in Fallujah and many places, from the ground straight up. Raids are like that- single focus on the target (extreme prejudice) the background story of the targets don’t matter at that moment, their death or capture does.”
I know that you and I are probably the only ones on this board with experience on how raids/anti-terrorist CQB goes, but the thing that is uncinematic about those things are 1) they are slower and purposeful in sweeping through buildings, so still necessitate stuff like elliptical editing and rising conflict in order to keep attention (having had to edit together various CQB and CT seminars, the whole three minute actions on a floor makes for maybe 10 seconds of interesting material, depending on how many inserts you get), and 2) because it is meant to be uniform and thus literally the soldiers wear uniforms and act uniformly, exaggeration of characterizations and reactions are required, dramatic writing and emphasis, in order to make the heroes seem a little something more heroic than the unnamed uniform extras they are fighting against. So “realism” in Fallujah-set anti-terrorist storytelling would require either the excitement of elliptical editing or the opposite, acknowledgment of the boredom/repetitiveness of the actions, the mechanical day job that it is for soldiers. We need drama, i.e. plot and narrative, to make the action exciting or the action isn’t exciting and that’s the dramatic point.
Now one thing you know that I don’t, is what it’s like psychologically to be in CQB, to be the character because you’ve experience inside the uniform. I only filmed simulations of it. I’m sure that drama can be sufficiently represented on screen using some of the filmic language I allude to. It does not translate simply by staging a choreographed/simulated raid and letting the camera role. Also, this movie doesn’t seem to be about real CQB raids anyway (martial arts films are rarely about efficient killing), so any verisimilitude it may have to CQB is unintentional and insignificant.
For what it’s worth Polaris, I disagree with you about Versus, not that the film is without its problems, but it is something of a signature of Kitamura’s to be interested in sorts of Frazerian mythic cycles where the idea of eternal recurrence or repetition plays a significant role. Obviously I don’t mean you should like it, but I find it interesting.
Yes, it almost has no plot. It’s all about non-stop action from the beginning until the very end of the film. And it’s super violent. now you know what you’re going to see. if you still expect plot, characters, dialogue and humanity in this film, that means you’re not ready to watch it
I prefer Versus to The Raid… quite a few times over. Versus is absolute nonsense, sure, but it has a healthy sense of humor about itself, and Kitamura’s direction contains quite a bit more dynamism than Evans’s.
sigh…I really didn’t want to, but curiosity got the better of me and I read the review, and I have to agree with those who are questioning it. I side with Monsieur Zom in questioning the appropriateness of the country comment and would add the remark about a character being shown as being Muslim only having a purpose as a “fake out” is also borderline offensive. Ebert preferring his violence to be candy coated with some cartoon justification to make things all right is certainly his right, but there is a tone of moral indignation to his review which gives the feeling that he thinks those that have liked the film are lacking in some regard. Again, I don’t have any problem with him not liking the film or giving it a bad review, but his justifications seem poorly thought out at best.
@POLARIS- I agree with your analysis- and you obviously know how it’s done from experience filming them. And you also know it’s very mechanical which doesn’t always translate well in action movies if done without the element of tension, suspense and slow-mo.
Sorry if I gave you the wrong idea, but I only mentioned real-life raids as a reaction to expectations regarding this movie. I mean assault from the ground up may be against the law of physics, but it’s a basic and very realistic maneuver. The fact is I wouldn’t want to see a realistic depiction of a raid but quite the opposite. We can bet combat vets and action fans in general don’t want to see anything realistic, but rather a series of truly exagerrated ballet of violence and extended hand-to-hand fighting especially from a movie with an Asian setting. This wasn’t meant as a negative stereotype or a knock on viewers’ intelligence, but unless it’s a serious drama of some sort (a Bigelow or Ridley Scott flick?), with ‘Raid’ I think the filmmaker can, and should get away with much less plot points and more flying bodies- a escapist fare. Either way it should be entertaining.
“it is something of a signature of Kitamura’s to be interested in sorts of Frazerian mythic cycles where the idea of eternal recurrence or repetition plays a significant role.”
My problem with that analysis is that I didn’t see any beats or analysis behind those ideas any more than regular action-movie set-pieces. That idea sounds more like an excuse for the action, than the action explores that idea. It makes me want to look into some of his other work if any of them go deeper, though, so recommendations are appreciated.
In before someone goes, "Ebert also disliked “Fight Club” and “Blue Velvet”! He doesn’t know anything!" …even though those are completely different movies.
“Ebert preferring his violence to be candy coated with some cartoon justification to make things all right is certainly his right, but there is a tone of moral indignation to his review which gives the feeling that he thinks those that have liked the film are lacking in some regard.”
Granted it is poorly, perhaps insensitively phrased, and there’s a certain “hey, you kids get off of my lawn!” tone to the the whole piece, but if you go beyond those two lines, all hes’ really asking is for the places and people in the film to seem “real” (“no one in the film has a personality”). Now, obviously this is to some degree subjective, but can we all agree—at least as a generalization—that single-attribute characters do not usually make for compelling films?
Cross reference the final paragraph of the closer-to-the-intended demographic Slant Magazine review:
“After a while, single-minded dedication becomes garden-variety monotony. As the film was heading into its second hour, my mind started to wander a little, even during some of the insanely choreographed combat sequences. Trouble is, besides the fights, there isn’t much for the viewer to reflect on: Evans’s insistence on distilled drama is a double-edged sword. Clearly trying to make a name for both himself and his found star (insanely limber Iko Uwais), Evans probably doesn’t want to burden the audience with too much story. I would have thought, logically, that what little story remained on the table would have been treated with something other than deathly, Lumet-esque seriousness. It might have aided the apparent objective of illustrating ceaseless, unfettered momentum.”
My guess is that I probably wouldn’t much like the movie either, his taste in that regard isn’t my issue with the piece. I tend to find Ebert at his very worst when he gets on his moral high horse, or Shetland pony really, and tries to construct arguments. His primary skill seems to me to be as an enthusiast, not a complex thinker, so I challenge his review on those grounds.
There is also an underlying issue about how movie violence is received here that could use more in depth fleshing out than someone like Ebert in his oh so certain way is able to provide, and that is touched on in the Slant quote, but, again, not looked at directly. The suggestion seems to be that there is an appropriate tone to adopt to make action movie violence “work”, and treating it “seriously” isn’t it. (Seriously in this instance meaning unleavened by humor or otherwise lightened.) I think action movie violence is an interesting and complex subject, so treating it as Ebert does grated on me as his unquestioned assumptions seem to be as much at stake here as anything else. In the week that The Hunger Games came out with the “news” media dutifully reporting that the author is intending a moral tale questioning violence while also reporting that the violence in the much hyped films isn’t offensive, all in line with the marketing ploy, on which the New York Times had a nice article, suggests there is some fertile ground here for examination, but which is left unsowed due to the reticence people have to self reflection.
Oh, and Polaris, regarding Kitamura, I can easily accept someone not really liking his films, Versus, for example, has something of a slap dash feel to it which I could see bugging someone interested in film craft. I find him to be worth watching though as the six or so films of his I’ve seen are all at least interesting in terms of what they suggest about his overall sensibility as a “pop” filmmaker, and in aggregate his body of work suggests a continuity to those concerns which I am curious about. Aragami would be the film which seems the best look at his concerns as it is his most stripped down take on some of the subjects he seems to pursue, whereas Midnight Meat Train is the possibly the most successful of his films in terms of craft while also managing to fit in with the other films of his I’ve seen thematically. He isn’t, by any calcuation, a great filmmaker, but I can’t help but feel he’s got something worth attending to and might surprise with a film or two which manage to be really successful within the sorts of constraints posed by the genres he works in. A John Carpenter sized talent perhaps…
I don’t expect The Raid to be everyone’s bag but I think his review is still a bit ridiculous. It reminds me of his Predator review in that it displays that he just does not have a mind for movies purely concerned with action.
In both reviews he asks weird logistical questions that are either inconsequential or easily understood by almost everyone else (like he doesn’t get why the Predator is there to fight in the first place when everyone knows he does it for honor/sport, or like he wants to know what country we’re in or picks at Tama being on the top floor… honestly, what kind of points are these to make lol)
…and in both reviews he really ignores how involved things actually are… comparing fights like these, with choreography this sophisticated and either involving brothers, or fought for thrills (I’m thinking Mad Dog here), or whatever (which is to say, there’s something going on at a character level, especially in the fights towards the end of the film) to “things jumping around” that a dog will watch on TV is both condescending and ignorant
I don’t really have a problem with Ebert but I think he just comes off as silly here. Again I don’t expect or want everyone to love the film as it’s a very specific type of movie, but I think his review is an example of someone just not “getting it”
It looks like Ebert might be reading this thread.
Hollywood’s Highway to Hell
He kinda put the smack-down on Mubians.
“’Always roll my eyes when Ebert mentions video games because the guy continues to rag on them despite proving (multiple times) he knows jack shit about them.”"
Is there anything to know about video games?
I haven’t really read through the thread (but I did see the “torture porn comment”). Here are some thoughts off the top of my head (and then I’ll go back and read the thread):
1. The film isn’t very good, imo (45/100)—even my wife, an action film, didn’t like it much, too. There are several problems with the film, and I’ll go over them in the rest of the comments.
2. The concept was interesting—and this would be decent remake material. But in the remake, they would have to be more clever and creative with regard to the protagonists getting out of the building. I thought the most creative moment involved the use of the refrigerator, but everything else wasn’t very interesting. Basically, the movie is a lot like Die Hard without the difficult problems and the clever and satisfying ways the hero solves them.
3. The hand-to-hand fight sequences weren’t very good. For one thing, they were monotous (especially the showdown between the two brothers and the short guy). The characters sustained so many blows that, after a while, I felt like they weren’t really significant. (Perhaps, if the film established a reason the characters could sustain so many blows that would have helped.) Also, the choreography had little variation.
4. There’s also the knives. I watch violent movies, but I thought the stabbing was a little excessive and almost gratuitous. At the same time, I wondered if these graphic scenes weren’t actually preferrable. If the film made the violence less horrific, wouldn’t that effectively glamorize the violence? I could see an argument being made for that.
5. The quality of the story, characters and acting also weren’t that great. Maybe if the film developed the backstory between the brothers a litle more, the film would have had more dramatic heft. The casting wasn’t so good, too—especially the villains.
6. My impression of the film would be really different if this was a student film. The film does have a similar feel.
7. Finally, the film reminds me a litle of John Carpenter’s films (e.g., the low budget, b-movie feel), and I wonder if there is any interesting subtext in this film. (I haven’t really tried to look for any.)
“Is there anything to know about video games?”
the world of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of different concepts/designs/stories/themes/ideas/interactivity/social gaming/communities.
“even my wife, an action film,”
Look, I love action movies as much as anyone, but…
Ebert: They are content, even eager, to sit in a theater and watch one action figure after another pound and blast one another to death. They require no dialogue, no plot, no characters, no humanity. Have you noticed how cats and dogs will look at a TV screen on which there are things jumping around? It is to that level of the brain’s reptilian complex that the film appeals.
“The Raid: Redemption” is essentially a visualized video game that spares the audience the inconvenience of playing it.
I agree with the above—and pretty much everything Ebert said in the review.
Lol. The hazzards of speed typing, my boy. ;)
DiB said, …I am down with plotless action movies if the action itself is inventive and keeps one-upping itself, but movies like the Japanese Versus can be very dull, especially once the one of three plot points reveals that the characters have never, can never, and will never stop fighting, so that at that point it’s merely repetitive until the filmmakers run out of set-pieces to chop up. You can get exasperated for audiences and especially critics demanding that the characters have any character or the story follow any dramatic beats, because at least Versus is original, right? but the lack of those things plus building action makes what action there is numbingly boring.
This^ describes the film well, imo. Btw, I like action films, but without inventive action, a decent story and characters the action and explosions are dull. Btw, this describes 90% of Hollywood action films, imo.
Nightshift said, _ the filmmaker just wanted to showcase pure non-stop adrenaline fueled sequences (which is the heart of the genre) in expense of character development, I believe action film enthusiasts can live with that._
To be clear, I’m not looking for some Cassavetian character development. Die Hard and Aliens, for example, have strong characters, solid stories and inventive action.
_In both reviews he asks weird logistical questions that are either inconsequential or easily understood by almost everyone else (like he doesn’t get why the Predator is there to fight in the first place when everyone knows he does it for honor/sport, or like he wants to know what country we’re in or picks at Tama being on the top floor… honestly, what kind of points are these to make lol)+
As an aside, I suspect what’s happening here is that more significant parts of the film have failed for Ebert—and so these are some details that become bothersome. Whether or not these details become a problem for the viewer often depends on the overall satisfaction of the film. If the film is satisfying, these things become trivial; when the film doesn’t work, they can seem like major flaws.
You don’t like action films, but you liked this one? I’m curious to hear why. I know you mentioned the action sequences, but I didn’t find them very expressive (although maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention).
Wow, I thought this thread was dead! The power of time…
@Dude and Andrew
Here’s what I was supposed to have written: “my wife, an action film fan,…”
Nope, every game is call of duty, just as every film is Transformers.
Polaris nailed it.
Re: Hollywood’s Highway to Hell
Well, good for Ebert, I guess it is never to late to grow a pair……
He also hated Brazil.
It does seem like a ridiculous film just from the review, but I want to go back to something someone said on page 1; is Ebert still relevant?
I no longer read reviews of new films, mostly because the latest attractions don’t interest me. Ebert’s Great Movies series was amazing until I got high speed internet. Through MUBI and other sites, I heard about thousands and saw hundreds of important, if not outright great, films that Ebert will never add to the Great Movies because they’re either too obscure or too out of the mainstream. Looking at his last five great movies, they’re all canon: Diary of a Lost Girl, Harakiri, Smiles of a Summer Night, Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II, and The Killing. The days where Ebert would introduce me to a film I’d never heard of via the series are long, long gone. And I doubt he’s even done regular reviews of films by contemporary icons like Diaz or Swanberg.
So, what are we left with but his ability as a reviewer of current releases? Let’s look at the five latest contemporary reviews on his site. I’ve already heard opinions from fellow cinephiles about The Cabin in the Woods, This Is Not a Film, and Damsels in Distress. The marketing campaigns for The Three Stooges and Bully tell me to avoid the first and seek out the second, and once fellow cinephiles, along with layman friends with good taste, tell me their opinions of them, Ebert’s reviews will have become irrelevant. I trust a friend more than a critic, even if that critic planted one of the seeds of my cinephilia.
@judicial joe: Try my man Ed Gonzalez.
I just checked out his stuff. His sense of politics is spot-on and he’s got a good, sarcastic and tough writing style.
@judicial joe: That’s why I love him!
Best martial arts film I’ve seen in some time. I need to catch up with the thread, but I can tell you that I don’t consider Ebert to be relevant.
Evidently it isn’t as good as that undying work of genius, Haggis’ CRASH.
Best martial arts film I’ve seen in some time. I need to catch up with the thread…
I look forward to reading your comments.