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The other one . . .
OCCUPY WALL STREET: WE ARE THE 99% - also known as THE 99%: OCCUPY EVERYWHERE, the title under which I signed out the Filmbuff DVD from my local library - would appear to be the 'other' 2013 documentary about the 'Occupy' movement, a disorganized but key protest in 2011 that pushed to the forefront of many issues (too many, according to some critics) that have since become ensconced in the national political discourse of not only the U.S. but many other developed countries around the globe.
The protest itself, at least as documented here by writer-producer-director Michael Perlman, comes off as glassy-eyed and naively idealistic, as much an "experience" of the sort that millennials are (then as now) so fond of turning everything they do into (via the same social media that spawned the New York gathering in the first place) as a movement with goals beyond what like-minded protesters were screaming for in decades past.
That's not entirely a bad thing as the United States has a long, rich, even complicated but altogether NECESSARY history of public protest, something still unheard of under the regimes in countries like China, but Perlman's doc runs barely over an hour, features only seven talking heads who are all allied with the cause (many of whom are allowed to gush excessively about how the event itself made them all warm and fuzzy about mankind), and offers only minimal context in which to place the event itself, as if the filmmaker figured future viewers would automatically be familiar. I am, but I'm sure others might not be, which is where the OTHER 2013 'Occupy' documentary, 99%: THE OCCUPY WALL STREET COLLABORATIVE FILM handily takes the prize with its multiple directors, purposeful repurposing of mountains of readily available video, bigger and higher-profile selection of interview subjects - including some critical of the movement - and overall better sense of context.
Perlman's film feels unfinished, and indeed my DVD appears to be a 2017 release of a 2013 film about a 2011 event, to which a few paragraphs have been added (oddly) after the closing credits to outline how the demands of the movement, or at least the ongoing discussion of them, are now part of the cultural debate, albeit in an era where everything that 'Occupy' stood for has pretty much been sidelined temporarily while the Donald Trump circus freak show wheezes toward it's inevitable, criminal demise.
Among Perlman's talking heads are three young people, presumably millennials, one grandmother and one retired NYPD cop who all participated in the event, as well as economist Jeffrey Sachs and - most damningly for the project in retrospect - entertainment mogul and celebrity activist (and sorta-kinda 1%-er) Russell Simmons, whose world came crashing down in a litany of sexual assault and harassment allegations right around the time this film was seemingly being dumped on DVD and presumably streaming channels. It would be interesting to know if Perlman smelled what was coming and decided to just get the thing out there and let it be damned or forgotten, or more realistically in hindsight, both.
Camerawork by cinematographer Tal Atzmon is an asset, with a consistent feel to the lighting and framing of interview subjects regardless of setting. I'm surprised he hasn't had a busier career since this was made, but it's delayed release undoubtedly didn't help.
YouTube Poop (2008)
No real achievement in hijacking the work of ACTUAL creative people
It's appalling enough that IMDb -- ostensibly a MOVIE database -- allows anything from YouTube (and other streaming sites) to have pages on the site, but that's the world we live in, where invariably young people who don't want to get real jobs -- or just don't have them yet -- drink the YT Kool-aid and figure they'll "explode" by "creating" make-up tutorials (just like everybody else), prank videos (just like everybody else), reaction videos (just like everybody else), how-to videos (just like everybody else), video game cheats/playthroughs (just like everybody else) and, at the very bottom of this now galactic-sized sludge pile that is YouTube "original content", mash-ups and comps that take the ACTUAL audio and visual creations (and IP) of LEGITIMATELY talented people and lazily squash them together into deliberately incoherent, tiresomely referential streams-of-consciousness that provide evidence no real skill, lead to ZERO success for the kids who "create" them, and entertain only the similarly addle-minded. Worst of all, this is nothing new; young, bored teens and twenty-somethings were demonstrating their "amazing" bizarre yet associative video and audio editing skills back in the days of VHS TAPE! And just like today's whizzes, reality stepped in and they had to get real jobs.
Not only has modern software rendered it possible -- albeit totally pointless -- for literally ANYONE to make these irksome, indistinguishable and repetitive videos, it's made it possible to do so even faster, and finally YouTube has made it possible for more people from more corners of the world to upload an unending supply of this derivative, time-wasting junk in an era where YouTube's own metrics all but guarantee that NO ONE (thankfully!) is going to make enough money or have enough success to make a living from the site beyond the less-than-one-per-cent of "talent" who were able to develop their cults-of-personality" in the site's early years. and now struggle to maintain upload schedules for their increasingly desperate, irrelevant crap without burning out (which is par for the course now that there's virtually NOTHING NEW at this creative bargain-basement level, and no new "YouTube" stars to be minted). "Hey guys", game over. If you're still making useless content like this, it's time to take stock of your life, and ask why you're not achieving anything of consequence in mom and dad's basement.
Thankfully, YouTube's algorithms are making this kind of "content" a thing of the past, along with many "old school" (LOL) vloggers and "stars" who long ago realized they were forever trapped within YouTube's wasteland, and big business and Hollywood were not knocking down their doors. There's just no point for the next generation to even bother making stuff; it's all be done, especially the kind of material that qualifies as YTP. Trying to do it now results in views in the low double to triple figures, which is a hopeful sign for the future!
Within the next generation, the "old" YouTube -- along with most of the biggest social media sites -- will be looked back upon as a long-lived but ultimately failed fad that, unlike so many before it, brought out the absolute worst in humanity, and very little of the best. And among the most forgotten material if offered the world will be YTP.
The Late Great Planet Earth (1979)
Hal Lindsay - False Prophet
"It's almost as if we had an unconscious desire to see the biblical prophesies fulfilled," frets narrator Orson Welles in this classic piece of Christian fearmongering. Quietly insane evangelical minister Hal Lindsay attempts to marry revelation to then-current affairs in an effort to prepare us for the armageddon that lies just around the corner. Obviously, with 25 years of hindsight, we now know he was wrong, and continues to be wrong, but had really swingin' fashion sense circa 1976.
Many actual scientists and deep thinkers appear on screen in LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, and you'd be forgiven if you felt that some of them (who are clearly talking along evolutionary lines) were being taken out of context to support Lindsay's crackpot theories. Lindsay's apocalypse is scotch-taped together out of all the Bad News that was available at the time of production. Thus, Lindsay's world was set to end as a result of any number of nasty afflictions. Recombinant DNA! Brazilian killer bees! Viruses from Hell! Atheists and witches run amok! Dogs and cats living together! And finally, as Orson says, "Nucular" Holocaust. It's Hal's nauseating belief that if you don't have hardcore Christian faith, then your ONLY possible options are witchcraft, astrology, transcendental meditation, Hare Krishnas or the Rev. Sun Myung-moon's wacky Reunification Church! In any case, Hal sez you haven't got a prayer.
As always, Hal saves the best for last, enlightening us as to the coming of the antichrist, a figure he believes is alive today (at least as of 1976), and who would achieve omnipotence through seemingly good deeds and the establishment of world peace before enslaving everyone with microchip implants supplied by the then-fledgling computer industry. Or something. Apparently, only those who heed Hal's book and movie can avoid falling under the spell of this evil maniac. He then proceeds to illustrate his argument with imagery designed to stoke the usual cold-war paranoia: before or around 1982, sez Hal, Russia and China will invade the middle east (didn't happen), the European market will grow to a prophesied ten member nations (25 and counting and still no armageddon), and the "nucular" bombs will rain from the skies like the falling stars seen by the biblical John on his island retreat (well, we're still waiting!). Nonetheless, this allows the filmmakers to go mad with stock footage, a delirious and depressing exercise in escalating doom that runs a full six minutes, unnarrated. Oh, the humanity!
Just because Christians love to fulfill prophesies, or see fulfilment where none rationally exists, doesn't mean the prophets were right. It just means that we'll always have to live with people like Hal, desperate to prove their "faith" has substance rather than just keeping it to themselves, and actually learning from it.
Bog standard rock doc
80's pop music "trendsetters" Spandau Ballet -- an arguable term if you look at their limited supply of #1 hits and garish taste in stage fashion versus the street clothing the world around them is seen wearing in archive footage featured herein -- are given bog standard rock doc treatment in SOUL BOYS OF THE WESTERN WORLD, an overlong, not particularly revelatory and utterly TV-worthy "behind-the-music-but-not-too-deep"-style documentary about the self-possessed members of the group. Their stereotypical ascent to international stardom from blue collar roots during particularly tumultuous times in Britain, their handful of hit songs, eventual breakup, largely-forgotten court battle and successful 2009 reunion are covered via extensive vintage clips and painfully canned voice-over from the band members (so rehearsed-sounding, in fact, that a writer should probably have been credited), but the whole thing is soft-pedaled to the degree that it becomes obvious the subjects are participating largely to drum up interest in yet another reunion circa the film's release in 2014. Professionally assembled by director George Hencken, a producer on several little-seen documentaries by Julian Temple, this show will undoubtedly delight now-middle aged fans, but others may be less enthralled, as the finished product -- perhaps unintentionally -- sketches these chaps as no less superficial than most pop acts of their ilk, and just as full of themselves.
Good Fortune (2016)
Interesting doc, but as always, BEWARE the planted IMDb "reviews"
As I write this (July 26, 2017), there are 14 user reviews on this documentary by the following people:
"Justin Anderson", "Shane Flint", "janepeterse", "David Trotter", "Isaac Landry", "Sean Rivera", "kaylifsutl", "Elisabeth James", "Christopher Ortezo", "jsscmrgndvs", "Mandy Ford", "Amanda Nasc", "Monica Summer", "mabarry-69560"
I placed their names in quotations because I'm convinced they're all non-existent entities. ALL of these "users" have submitted "reviews" for some combination of a VERY small batch of independent films and documentaries and nothing more: Good Fortune, Danger Close, Chief Zabu, Imperfections, Urban Hymn, Founders, Granny of the Dead, Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies, 1 Night and Walk of Fame. End of list. MOST of their reviews are approximately the same length, because the smaller number of real people writing them -- much as with ALL fake reviews all across the web -- are paid by the word. The writing style employed on several of them are so similar as to be the work of one person.
All of these "authors" give these film 9- or 10-star IMDb ratings, which in turn prompts readers who smell a scam to place retaliatory reviews, much like this one, to try and "balance" the deceptively high scores given to the films in question. While I actively encourage that practice, I DON'T encourage throwing up disingenuous 1-star ratings because that's just as detrimental to the casual IMDb surfer as the gushing 10-star reviews. I rated Good Fortune a 6, because I HONESTLY believe that's what it deserves; it's a well-made hagiography, cut and dried, and since it's theatrical run was limited largely to festival dates, the producers or the studio that eventually acquired it rather obviously sought out resources to boost it's profile on IMDb and parent company Amazon (where many of these exact same "users" deposited the exact same reviews while having no other product reviews to their names), as well as other sites I'm sure. Obviously, SOME viewers would indeed rate this particular film much higher than I did, others will honestly rate it much lower, but the fact that ALL the reviews on the film so far have toed virtually the exact same line, in addition to the staggeringly obvious clues to their manufactured nature as noted above not only does a disservice to the film and its makers — even if they WERE privy to the scheme — but also to IMDb's already shaky trustworthiness in this regard.
Surely if the IMDb can shutter the forums that helped make them the global community experience they always wanted to be because of inappropriate behavioour, they can likewise start filtering out fake, misleading and oftentimes paid-for reviews.
Until then, this particular movie remains worth seeing, but in no way worthy of such high praise.
Dogora - Ouvrons les yeux (2004)
"Look, everyone, poor people!"
Revered French filmmaker Patrice Leconte attempts to craft a wordless documentary in the vein of Koyannisqatsi but generally misses the boat, its visual artistry hampered by a vague, simplistic "message". Had this been made by Cambodian filmmakers, I might be obliged to think differently, as undoubtedly they would have, too. Granted, it's full of pretty imagery (mostly of poor people, of course) and a sweeping (though inappropriately leading) tragi-operatic score by a massive European orchestra with choir seen on screen at regular intervals, most inappropriately at the end. There's a French subheading/tagline for the film that translates directly to "Open Your Eyes" which indicates that -- in spite of defenders who think the film deserves a more exalted reputation because of its music and imagery alone, or those who see no editorializing going on -- Leconte clearly WAS trying to make a "statement" with this film, a la such broader-canvassed productions as the aforementioned Koyannisqatsi, Baraka or Chronos. But where the directors of those films made that message one part of a larger commentary on our crazy world, and usually contrasted it with imagery of bustling, technology-choked metropolises and the like, Leconte seems to have thought that a vanilla travelogue of seemingly random yet very carefully selected scenes of lower-class, rural Cambodian malaise and ennui (read: people staring into the distance not realizing they're being filmed) set to an emotionally-charged choral musical backdrop would be enough to "open the eyes" of his audience to how the have-nots of East Asia really live. Instead, his show comes off like the work of a (typically white-privileged) 20-something millennial Social Justice Warrior whose sense of righteousness and predictable reverence for all things East Asian is not matched by a well-informed understanding of his host country and what sets him apart from the unwitting people he's essentially exploiting for profit. Apart from pictorially, DOGORA doesn't seem like the work of an accomplished auteur like Leconte. It's a tourist video with an "epic" soundtrack -- by the noticeably all-white Bulgarian State Orchestra -- layered in to "open your eyes" to its rather shallow, ill-defined "message": that the indifferent, often bored-looking faces of rural and small-town Cambodians going about their day-to-day lives are actually the face of a people locked in some kind of eternal struggle that the filmmaker doesn't actually identify.
The Belko Experiment (2016)
A near-ideal mix of gory kills and organic laughs
The concept of director Greg McLean and producer/writer James Gunn's THE BELKO EXPERIMENT won't seem overly original to those who've seen BATTLE ROYALE or really any movie in which people are forced to hunt or kill folks they know and like, but in Gunn's hands it's a whole lot more fun: office workers for a Bogota-based non-profit are trapped in their shiny office tower and told by a mysterious intercom voice that they've got to murder a certain number of their own before a pre-determined deadline or double that number will be killed via the company's "alternate method". To prove the seriousness of the situation, several employees' heads are suddenly ripped open by a mysterious force. After several attempts at teamwork to devise methods of contacting the outside world result in even more bodies as punishment, some of the (literally) more mercenary members of the management team decide that the voice sort of has a point, and set about liberating several handguns from a downstairs vault, not long after other sluggos have raided the cafeteria of its sharpest utensils.
Not surprisingly, Gunn's script establishes a firm balance between action, horror and organic comedy -- bother Sean gets some of the biggest laughs as the corporation's resident stoner and conspiracy theorist, who leads his own little squadron of three for much of the film -- and he and McLean have assembled a such a strong, fan-friendly cast of familiar heavies (Michael Rooker! Tony Goldwyn! Gregg Henry! John C. McGinley!), lesser-knowns and newcomers to play this likable, believable group of office drones that they're able to smartly subvert expectations on a number of occasions.
The body count is extremely high -- most of them on screen -- and the blood and gore is plentiful and extremely well-crafted, but it wisely isn't lingered on and there's no off-putting, drawn-out torture scenes to speak of. Mind you, a few of the most audience-pleasing kills are exceptionally squishy, so I could see this eventually hitting DVD and streaming in R and unrated versions. The TIFF audience saw the unrated version for sure last night, so plenty of cheers all around when some of the most devious players met their makers.
This is a great "what would you do" kind of show, and I'd imagine a lot of genre fans will get a huge kick out of it.
Big Game (2014)
Epically mounted, poorly written; a just-OK B-movie, and a blatant bid for Hollywood
On route to a pre-G8 summit meeting, the U.S. president's plane is brought down by a seeming act of terrorism into the dense, mountainous Finnish Lapland, played here by the German Alps much like Norway substituted for Finland in writer-director Jalmari Helander's debut feature RARE EXPORTS. Ejected to safety by his right-hand secret service agent (Ray Stevenson) before the crash, the president (Samuel L. Jackson) finds his only hope of escaping the mountains and forest is a 13-year old boy (Onni Tommila, the star of RARE EXPORTS) undergoing his first solo hunt as a rite-of-passage into manhood. The boy, we're shown, doesn't share his father's legendary skill for hunting—his talent with a bow and arrow tending to land shots well short of their targets—but when it becomes apparent that the president is being stalked, MOST DANGEROUS GAME style, by a team of slick big game hunters led by a Saudi psychopath (Mehmet Kurtulus) who has paid an exorbitant sum of money for the privilege of stuffing and mounting his prize, the duo must both learn that being tough is equally as crucial as looking tough.
Meanwhile, back at Pentagon HQ bunker, the vice president (Victor Garber), his aide (Felicity Huffman), a top general (Ted Levine) and an intelligence expert (Jim Broadbent) pound their fists, actually shout lines like "Dear GOD!", order in Chinese take-out, analyze a wall of gigantic satellite monitors and generally deliver Helander's shallow, wholly-derivative and often groan-inducing dialogue with as much professional aplomb as they can muster. With actors like these, all of whom Helander was no doubt able to attract on the charming eccentricity of RARE EXPORTS, audiences bring a lot of subconscious baggage to the table when watching them on deliver mostly and unnecessarily expository dialogue, having seen them play countless similar roles over the years, in effect filling in the blanks left by the writer. Without them, or with lesser actors or, say, Finns playing Americans, the film wouldn't have gotten too deep into the festival circuit (where it's currently making the rounds as I write this), or even a DVD/stream release outside of Europe or the Nordic countries, as the primary selling features would be limited to its spectacular visuals, an epic score, and the unique flavour of the indigenous cast. There are plenty of Nordic movies like that already, and they're largely unknown in North America.
Speaking of blanks, there are some big ones in Big Game, including a clearer understanding of the conspiracy that's actually taking place. With straight-up terrorism ruled out very early in the show, and the Chinese-armed Mid-Eastern hunters revealed to be in league with an "inside man", it comes as no real surprise that the two halves of the story—the action in the forest and the hand-wringing at the pentagon—will reveal additional villainy afoot (predictably, that's exactly what happens). But when Kurtulus, at long last moving in for the kill on Jackson aboard a sunken Air Force One after much shooting of guns, detonating of explosives, pursuits by helicopters and, at one point, a perilous and logic-defying ride in an airborne-then-waterborne refrigerator (don't ask), suddenly announces that he's on actually on the president's side (!), but answers Jackson's query of how with an exhausted "It's a long story. Maybe later." before resuming his attempt to kill him, it only confirms that Helander hasn't really thought the story through beyond characters and dialogue he purloined from other, superior works. That this exchange is quickly followed by Jackson's trailer-ready, baddie-dispatching quip for the ages proves that Helander is more about hitting the right beats and deploying the expected clichés than shaping character or filling in story, or addressing potentially interesting political subtexts inherent in the situation he created.
Make no mistake. This is clearly an amped-up calling card to Hollywood in the wake of the goodwill engendered by his enjoyably quirky RARE EXPORTS. I doubt it will get much theatrical play outside major markets. It will probably do alright on DVD and streaming (the "home formats", as the pros will say), and its high gloss production value should surprise the unsuspecting renter and be enough to attach Helander and DP Mika Orasmaa to a bigger American or international production for their next show(s), which is clearly something they're aiming for based on the evidence assembled here.
BIG GAME is very well crafted on what was undoubtedly a small budget compared to its American antecedents, with Helander and Orasmaa backgrounding nearly every frame with majestic mountain scenery, big skies, craggy surfaces and lush forestation, and Juri and Miska Seppa's sweeping orchestral score matching those visuals on every level, almost to a fault. The film's plentiful digital effects, including the crash of Air Force One and a climactic confrontation in the sky between ejector seat-bound Jackson and Tommilla and a helicopter riding villain, are all seamlessly integrated even as they routinely defy physics or common sense. But these are beautiful visuals tethered to an undernourished B-movie screenplay. I suppose some will claim that's part of it's charm — and it's certainly never boring as a result — but that's just excusing the fact that Helander should've had someone with a better ear for English dialogue and a better understanding of how the more successful of the American action pictures and 1980's Spielberg productions he idolizes here actually work, perhaps by doing more technical research than just appropriating their surface gloss for inspiration.
Gwai ching lei tai hei (1999)
Not perfect, but better than some reviews would have you think...
Pseudo-gonzo horror-comedy isn't quite up to the bar set by last year's truly gonzo BIO- ZOMBIE, but does earn at least a couple of stripes for thinking outside the box in which Hong Kong genre outings have of late become increasingly confined. One the eve of its closure—indeed, on the eve of the millennium—the motley staff of an alluringly tattered old picture palace, tellingly located at 666 King's Road, must face off with a collection of delightfully, deliberately rinky-dink monsters unleashed by Satan (Francis Ng), who's grown tired of poor films and inattentive theatre owners and decides to put this little microcosm of oddballs to the test! Leading the charge, after dishy girlfriend Sherming Yiu is unpleasantly dispatched by the demon, is sheepish projectionist Simon Loui, jittery, goggle-eyed ticket vendor Wayne Lai (in a terrific performance) and sassy cop Pauline Suen. Meanwhile, chasing a turd monster (!) down the toilets in the upstairs washrooms are stoned rave punks Benny Chan, Angela Tong and Pinky Cheung. While allusions are frequently and rather obviously drawn to Lamberto Bava's DEMONS (1985) because of the locale and the trio of punks, the film's primary mainspring is very likely Peter Jackson's DEAD ALIVE (aka BRAINDEAD, 1992), from the emphatically saccharine romance between Simon and Sherming, to the squishy, rubbery, puppet-y quality of the shoestring special effects, to the blatant editing cheats that prolong some setpieces a bit beyond their sell-by date. To be sure, it's no DEAD ALIVE, but its makers have their hearts in the right place, and if their low-fi ingenuity won't stand up to careful appraisal, it isn't really meant to anyway: it's meant to wink at the audience along with the cast and crew, who clearly enjoyed being given free run of a theatre for a few days to craft something just a little bit...different.
Youyou chouchou de zou le (2002)
Fascinating contribution to the overrated Dogme 95 movement
Engrossing socio-realist triptych of stories exploring the anxieties and intransigence of Hong Kong society through the eyes of a handful of everyday citizens, including one who returns from the diaspora, during both the buildup to the 1997 handover of the former British colony to China and the Asian financial crisis that followed soon after, in part the result of unbridled stock market and real estate speculation. Lensed on digital video in the naturalistic Dogme 95 style championed by Danish filmmakers Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg (among others who followed) in films like THE CELEBRATION and THE IDIOTS (both 1998). The movement's "rules" forbid the overlaying of music to artificially shape emotion, so the ambient noise here includes vintage television news broadcasts providing political context.
Upstanding pastor Tony Ho frets the loss of his small church, and the sense of community and belonging it represents, to bald-faced property speculators, while his wife (Ivy Ho), a pragmatic realtor, surreptitiously arranges to sell their apartment before emigrating to the U.S. Meanwhile, tabloid reporter Shawn Yu takes a shine to editor Crystal Lui, whose aloofness masks painful, unresolved memories of her time as a student during the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing. Finally, superficial, westernized playboy Duncan Lai (easily the film's most weakly-drawn character) returns to Hong Kong from San Francisco to be nearer to his bus driver father, the pair learning a great deal about their roots during a visit to a rustic quarter of the city of Chung Shan in Guangdong Province to arrange the affairs of a deceased great aunt.
In keeping with the Dogme manifesto, independent producer-director Vincent Chui, in an extremely promising feature-length debut after dabbling in short subjects, employs restless hand-held photography and fractious editing to accentuate themes of dislocation and unease in writer Patrick Kong's uniquely local stories: these are people facing uncertain futures and disappearing pasts, and the artless telling of their tales becomes a visual metaphor for the unsettling cosmopolitan zeitgeist of the period. Though a key event in the minds of all concerned, the moment of the handover itself is skillfully omitted for audiences who presumably know everything they need to know either from having lived through it or from having seen it openly referenced in the city's mainstream cinema for well over a decade, prior to and beyond 1997.
Other strategies from the Dogme playbook—available light, existing locations, raw sound, unmannered performances—contribute to an at-once refreshing lack of artifice and melodrama rare even to independent Hong Kong cinema. Tony Ho, Crystal Lui and newcomer Ivy Ho are in top form here, backed by an able ensemble. Only Duncan Lai's character remains frustratingly enigmatic, probably not by design. Title comes from the bible, Matthew 19:22, for those so inclined.
Sup fun oi (2007)
Self-satisfied fluff about self-involved young people in love . . . or maybe not! Bouncy fashion plate Stephy Tang happily interferes in the frayed relationships of her friends, runs a speed dating swindle with another pal, and sorts out her feelings for old flame Alex Fong — who she played on her way to a supposedly better catch before suffering a string of bad luck — and new flame Hins Cheung, the youngest looking doctor in Hong Kong and (coincidentally, I'm sure) a whiz at melancholy melodies on the piano. Director-writer Patrick Kong is so taken with the narrative trickery in his screenplay that his characters end up being motivated by false assumptions and mixed signals instead of common sense. While these are legitimate storytelling devices, usually requiring flashbacks to clue us in to the "real" story taking place, Kong employs all of them so frequently that no other filmmaker need bother with them for the next five years. Besides, the Koreans have been doing it better for a while now. Essentially, this is another feature-length infomercial for the talent roster of Gold Label recording boss Paco Wong, but it can't compare to his last one, LOVE @ FIRST NOTE. Pretty people in pretty clothing stalking their lovers to a pretty good Cantopop soundtrack. Of course, only in a film like this could a character who pastes pictures of his secret crush onto pictures of himself before taping them all over his wall be considered a real sweet fella.
Luen oi chor gor (2006)
CDs, posters and souvenirs available in the lobby...
Product placement reaches staggering new heights—by all known international standards of the practice—in this electronic-press-kit-with-a-plot masterminded by Hong Kong music impresario Paco Wong, the head of Gold Label Records. The cast is a virtual catalogue of top-shelf Gold Label talent, and no effort is spared slowing a barely-there narrative for music-video-worthy performances of their top hits throughout the film.
Cantopop lovers will obviously find much to savor here—and the music is excellent of its kind—but even those disinclined to one of Hong Kong's biggest exports should give this a spin; it's bound to be dissected by future marketing professors for its sheer media-savvy chutzpah. This isn't just about someone holding a can of Coca-Cola in their hands, though it does happen here. It's about the person holding the product actually BEING a product themselves!
The biggest beneficiary of this super-slick infomercial is undoubtedly relative newcomer Justin Lo, an American-born singer-songwriter with a powerhouse delivery not often heard from the ranks of Hong Kong's superficial pop dispensary. Lo plays a slacker composer living with his seamstress mom who fears he might be losing his life-long best friend Kary Ng, a pseudo-goth record shop clerk who lives with her guilt-ridden alcoholic father (Lam Suet), to wealthy shop customer Alex Fong, a shy, friendless singer who bemoans all the "money whores" in his life (including his parents!) while charging rare Barry Manilow and Fleetwood Mac LPs to his Visa Black Platinum card and driving around in his vintage Porsche 911. "Boarding school was my orphanage," he boo-hoos in order to make us think that maybe, just maybe, real-life pop stars aren't about the money after all.
The reverence for Cantonese pop music and the oh-so-genuinely-sensitive souls who perform it runs deep in this: nearly every time someone sings—and it happens often, in trendy nightclubs, cramped apartments, community centers and pay-as-you-go recording studios—there's inevitably a cut (or two, or three) to a listener on the verge of tears from the overwhelming wonderfulness of it all.
In keeping with the branding theme, Ng's former groupmates from Cookies make gratuitous appearances here as well: Stephy Tang and Theresa Fu play ditzy rivals who switch sides when nominal villain and rival singer Keith Lee treats Ng like dirt after she snubs his advances, and Miki Yeung quite literally hovers speechless around the margins of countless scenes because...well, they just HAD to get her in there somewhere!
In addition to the six songs performed by Justin Lo, three by Kary Ng, and one each by Alex Fong, Elisa Lim and Ping Pung (Kary's other pop band, consisting of Wong Tin-ho, Jerry Lee and Jan Lee, the latter pair younger brothers to the film's composer Mark Lui), those synergistic pixies at Gold Label made damned sure to include cuts by house titans Edmund Leung and Ronald Cheng (both of whom share hosting duties with Alex Fong on the hit starlet-bait TV show "Beautiful Cooking") and then cast Leo Koo, whose own career was revived by the company in 2003, in a key cameo role.
And the nine girls who pop up in those throwaway "bathroom" scenes? I smell another pre-fab idol group on the horizon...
One can only assume that music veteran George Lam, who is not on the Gold Label roster, was brought in for a cinematic passing of the torch to this new generation of candy- coated superstars.
Written, as such, by the director, who manages to slip in a shameless plug for his upcoming thriller FATAL CONTACT. Producer Herman Yau also served as the film's cinematographer, and it benefits immensely from his work.
The Green Inferno (2013)
Gore galore, but a slavish re-tread of the Deodato/Lenzi films. Not that that's entirely bad thing . . .
NOTE: slight spoiler in the second last paragraph, duly noted below.
I've always found Eli Roth's films to be mixed bags. GREEN INFERNO is by far his best picture, but as in most of his other films his limitations as a dialogue writer are foregrounded too often, albeit thankfully to nowhere near the extent they were in the RZA's execrable vanity project MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. His character development skills, however, show unexpected signs of refinement during his six year absence from the director's seat.
In particular, Roth's take on environmental activists -- all of the main characters in Green Inferno are self-serious, latte-drinking "save the rain forest" university types who infiltrate a clear-cutting operation deep in the Amazon jungle and chain themselves to the logging machinery in order to protest "corporate greed" via satellite linkup with their iPhones -- cuts effectively deep for a filmmaker not usually given to social criticism.
Most criticism that could be leveled at the film's dialogue and subtext, however, is irrelevant since the drawing card for horror buffs will without question be the exotic, "dangerous" location (which promises enough stories for multiple gory sequels, according to Roth), and the copious scenes of torture, dismemberment and cannibalism that ensue when the protagonists' plane -- possibly due to sabotage, it's later implied -- crashes into the forest on the return trip home (the opening protest mission is entirely self-contained, and actually successful, or so it seems at first). Enter the natives -- reportedly played by an authentic Chilean tribe, albeit one not prone to dining on human flesh -- and the feasting begins.
The grisly makeup effects are by a team led by legends Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger (who aren't credited at IMDb as of this writing, but ARE listed in the opening credits of the film), and they certainly deliver, particularly the squishy, screaming dismemberment that sets the ball rolling. As far as cannibal movies go, the special effects in GREEN INFERNO are certainly the most elaborate to date, but considering the most notable (and notorious) run of this genre happened thirty years ago, that probably goes without saying.
Manuel Riveiro's full orchestral lends the film an appropriately ominous sense of portent -- especially when it accompanies sweeping flyover shots of dense jungle -- and a feeling of scope and import that belies the fact that GREEN INFERNO is ultimately a throwback/valentine to the works of Ruggerio Deodato and Umberto Lenzi, almost to the letter, in particular Lenzi's CANNIBAL FEROX (aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY). Speaking of those two, Roth's film is actually dedicated to Deodato, and the credits list most if not all of the films in this sub-genre that one should probably see or at least be aware of going in or coming out. At TIFF, Roth claimed this list (along with numerous tweet handles in the final roll) was simply a great way to insert some marketing magic directly into the film itself, but one could also read it as a preemptive strike against critics (and fans) who might realize just how shamelessly he treads familiar ground with this show and attempt to dock points for it. Mind you, if enough future audience members haven't seen any of the late 70's or early 80's Italian cannibal pictures -- and let's face it, a whole new generation or two probably doesn't even know they exist -- that might bode well for this picture, especially via DVD/streaming, as there's nothing like experiencing a dedicated cannibal movie for the first time, and with a strong stomach. It's also now very likely that some of GREEN INFERNO's predecessors will get fancy new Blu-ray re-releases thanks to the existence of this film. So there's that.
As for gratuitous skin -- always a component of the originals -- Roth treats us to more of Daryl Sabara's junk than most viewers probably ever thought they'd care to see, for what that's worth, while for the likely-to-be-predominantly-male demographic of this type of picture, Loranna Izzo spends a fair portion of the final act bounding through the rain forest in a skimpy little muslin jungle bikini (and -- SPOILER AHEAD!! -- appears oh-so-briefly topless during her FGM "preparation" scene), while she and a couple of the other actresses have fleeting moments sans pants getting "examined" by the tribe's cataracted, jaundice-skinned resident witch doctor and gynecologist. Such as it is, the skin quotient -- when it's not being ripped and chopped apart, and cooked and eaten, at least -- is more or less on par with the original films. Thankfully Roth and company avoid scenes of animal cruelty (even faked) altogether, so those who uncomfortably recall such unpleasantness from the Deodato/Lenzi films can rest easy; it's only the humans who get eaten this time out.
Finally, a dangling subplot involving one character will undoubtedly serve as the foundation of the just-announced sequel, which reportedly begins production almost immediately. To be honest, I'd almost forgotten about this character until the drive home, which was probably the point all along.
Big ideas but no money to do them justice.
This ambitious 1998 mystical adventure-thriller pre-dates the Korean cinema renaissance by a year, and stands as a textbook example of why so few Korean genre movies pre-1999 were worth watching: the ideas of writer Jang Yong-min and director Yu Sang-wook--who MUST have been the biggest geeks in high school--far outweigh their budget. Their story of a group of attractive students on a mission to uncover secrets buried in the work of a mysterious poet and possibly restore Korea's screwed-up chi is undoubtedly the wet dream of many a card-carrying library clubber. The theories underlying the story are just so much paranormal bunkum from the Japanese colonial days, along the lines of water dousing or geomancy or zombies, but the filmmakers treat them with the utmost reverence. Unfortunately, frequent special effects sequences, while grand in scope, are decidedly less so in execution, which kills the picture's "reality" every time they're brought into play.
Daehanminguk heonbeob je 1jo (2003)
A strong comedy-drama with plenty of remake potential
A structurally sound and colourful working-class comedy in which an educated prostitute (Ye Ji- won) runs for a senate seat, causing untold embarrassment to her old-boy political rivals (the comedy) and unintended consequences for some of her hooker companions once the spotlights get a little too hot (the drama). The screenplay by Choi Jong-tae and Kim Jin-su eschews the broad laughs one might reasonably expect from a high concept Korean comedy like this, and instead allows sharp dialogue and realistic situations do the heavy lifting. Probably more remake potential in this film than in the dozen or so Korean horror pictures that were picked up by opportunistic American producers.
Mokponeun hangguda (2004)
Winks a bit too hard . . .
Had I seen this when it was a new release, I'd have thought it was a small patch on a very tired genre: the Korean jopok/gangster comedy. The plot's nothing new--undercover cop (Jo Jae-hyeon) starts to sympathize with the dapper gangster/drug dealer (Cha In-pyo) he's trying to nab--but the homoerotic elements, an arguable subtext in even the most serious films in this genre, are writ so large and loud here that they threaten to squirt you in the eye (ahem). The filmmakers probably though it would be funny to make explicit what other films only suggest, but the joke wears thin right around the moment that one of the leads feeds the other a live-squid-on-a-stick (a uniquely Korean treat) held at crotch level, and minions outside see the seemingly fellatial event in silhouette against the window blinds. Hmmm. There IS an explosive diarrhea gag that made me laugh, but then I felt really guilty afterwards. Good looking film, but not a keeper.
Boss sangrokjakjeon (2002)
Madcap comedy with real-life connections
I recall reading somewhere that this madcap farce was designed as a jab at a well-known Korean political official, as well as a few other easy targets of the era. Jeong Woon-taek, the homely, much abused sidekick in MY BOSS MY HERO is a prosecutor who, with the help of the police, creates a phony hostess bar to catch a crooked gangster politician. Most of the humour is character driven, as a distaff crew of cops is brought in to play hostesses and waiters, professions they're clearly not cut out for. A lot of well-earned laughs in this one, thanks largely to well-drawn characters. It's a bit long, though, for what it is.
Sae-yi yaeseu (2001)
Pretty good remake of The Hitcher.
That scene where C. Thomas Howell falls asleep in the police station and awakens to find dead cops? It's here. A villain who goads the hero into attempting to kill him? He's here. The love interest (in this case wife) who doesn't end up in a very nice way? She's here, too. And don't forget the vehicular carnage. Gotta have that if you're gonna remake Robert Harmon's THE HITCHER (1986). This thriller about a couple (Kim Ju-hyuk, Chu Sang-mi) menaced by a (mostly) motiveless psychopath (Park Joong-hoon) during a road trip to a small resort town owes a great deal of its existence to the superior American cult thriller. As such, it's very well made and hits the right shock and gore buttons even as it goes through the motions and director Kim Sung-hong adds almost no new ingredients outside of a somewhat difficult-to-swallow twist ending that doesn't really square with the the hero's character up to that point, but DOES suggests that both he and villain Park are just part of an ongoing cycle of senseless violence. Comedy and action-comedy mainstay Park fills Rutger Hauer's shoes with the same mix of sotto voce menace and unstoppable (and seemingly unkillable) force of nature, but he doesn't bother with the sparkle of bemusement in Hauer's eye that made his grim acts all the more hissable. Not sure the reason — beyond the difficulties most Korean filmmakers have getting sophomore efforts off the ground in such a small and competitive market — but director Kim didn't direct again until 2009's MISSING, a rather disappointing gap considering the potential demonstrated in this remake.
Yeongeo wanjeonjeongbok (2003)
Cute romantic comedy almost entirely undone by its third act.
This is an overly slapsticky date movie starring Lee Na-young as an uber-dorky (and therefore uber-cute) public service drone encouraged by her coworkers to take an English class in an effort to improve relations with English-speaking customers. In the class, our heretofore loveless heroine falls fast for suave shoe salesman (Jang Hyuk), a slick player who has played far less frequently than he lets on and who's taking the class so he can communicate with his American-raised sister, who was given up for adoption as a child. Lee's infatuated. Jang thinks she's a dork (which she is) and is himself besotted with the English teacher (Angela Kelly, one of the precious few white actors in Korean films with actual acting skill as of 2003; pity she seems to have ventured behind the camera in low-level tech jobs since this). Characters are broadly drawn (with the exception of Kelly, oddly enough), which means gags are plentiful; some stick, some slide down the wall, and others are delivered with little animated word bubbles and cartoon heads that pop up on screen, The mangled use of English by the leads and their classmates carries a certain charm for both Korean and non-Korean audiences, but the picture is done irreparable damage in it's third act when the American sister shows up, played by a beautiful woman with seemingly no acting ability and a little-girl voice. Her scenes with Jang and their guild-ridden mother are supposed to be one of the film's melodramatic high points, but this performer's absolute wrongness for the part stops the movie dead in its tracks. I can't seem to find this woman's name anywhere online, but perhaps its for the best.
Gonggongui jeog (2002)
Searing indictment of Korea's soulless corporate culture
Director Kang Woo-suk dresses up his diatribes about the social ills of modern Korea in the well- worn finery of the cop-vs-serial-killer thriller so beloved by Hollywood. Disheveled cop Sol Kyung-gu, unrepentantly violent and perpetually on the take--because, let's face it, that's just how thing's get done in Korea--relentlessly pursues a dapper, smarmy financial whiz (Lee Sung- jae, who he believes killed his parents over his father's decision to remove a large chunk of money from a big investment deal in order to save an orphanage from the bulldozers. There's no doubt Lee is guilty of the crime--we see the act in all it's squishy glory, and he further confounds the investigators by randomly killing a hapless stranger to make all the murders appear to be the work of a serial killer, but Sol knows better, and will use every dirty trick at his disposal to put this doggy down. The real target of director Kang's venomous social criticism is quite obviously the soulless corporate culture he seems convinced has poisoned Korean society and subverted traditional family values far more than corrupt law enforcement ever could, and which he views as a wellspring of self-obsessed Armani-clad sociopaths who would slit their own mothers' throats to score a big ROI, only here the metaphor isn't actually a metaphor, it's the central plot device! (I'm guessing he read "American Psycho" or at least saw the movie; certainly Lee's icy villain would make an ideal overseas pen-pal for Bret Easton Ellis' Patrick Bateman). As in TWO COPS 1 and 2, the director sides squarely with the overworked, underpaid cops, and he lovingly (and humorously) illustrates the complex, even necessary web of corruption and deception they must weave in order to maintain the status quo.
Doesn't do the Korean military any favours
This Korean military-themed will seem exceedingly familiar to western audiences, and most certainly would have in 2003, albeit if less so than it did to domestic viewers. And naturally, because this is a Korean film, the clichés of a couple of decades worth of American naval thrillers are balanced by the clichés of the Korean Romance®, which dictates that two lifelong friends and Navy underwater salvage specialists (Kim Yeong-ho and BICHUNMOO brooder Shin Hyeon-jun) will have their friendship tested by the superior officer (Shin Eun-kyung) they both love and their lives tested by an almost laughable number of mishaps that occur both during their training exercises and real-world rescue missions they undertake. In fact, so many "incidents" occur in the name of hoary melodrama in this otherwise technically proficient movie that I'm surprised the Korean Navy would want to be associated with it in any way. It actually makes them look bad.
Daenseo-ui sunjeong (2005)
Dances most of the familiar routines, but balanced by charm and honest dancing
Typical underdog story about a fallen dance champ (Park Kyon-hyeong) forced pair up with a mousy Korean-Chinese immigrant (Moon Geun-young from A TALE OF TWO SISTERS) in need of citizenship in order to take back the crown. Plays all the familiar notes from just about any sport competition movie you'd care to remember, but cleverly opts out of the usual, predictable triumphant ending by having Moon enter the big dance finals with with Park's dirty rival (!). Moon's a doll in this, as she has been in everything she's been in so far (think LOVER'S CONCERTO or better yet, MY LITTLE BRIDE). WIth a face seemingly purpose-built for crying at the slightest hint of heartbreak, she can only be a natural; her character has to remain doe-eyed and lovestruck with Park, and typically selfless in spite of his harsh ways, while becoming a seasoned professional dancer in a very short period of time. Another reason I like a movie like this: the leads are actually required to DANCE. Their routines are modest, but frequent long tales reveal that they did indeed learn some killer moves. The championship dance is built from editing more than performer skill, but one can still see the effort being applied.
Mercury Man (2006)
Thai filmmakers keep trying, but keep missing . . .
At the time of its release, MERCURY MAN, Thailand's first foray into the superhero genre was one of the more expensive movies ever made in the country, but it's dismal box office performance there didn't bode well for its producers' hopes that it would "go international" or have the box-office muscle of Sam Raimi's SPIDERMAN, the film it's most obviously been modelled on, right down to the lead character's sinewy-rubbery costume, which can be easily duplicated in a computer for those dazzling flights of fancy across urban landscapes.
The film is flawed enough that it probably never stood a chance of cracking the international market anyways. Glossy production values aside--and they're often rare in Thai cinema--there's a weird sense that the whole thing is some kind of thinly-veiled propaganda.
After having part of a mystical "Solar Mercury" amulet embedded in his chest, a hot-shot fireman (Vasan Kantha-u) must learn to control his temper (in a country known for silencing dissent, no less, not to mention alienating religious minorities) if he's to defeat not only various hooligans around the city, but also a small band of Muslim extremists led by a dude named "Usama" who bears a rather unfortunate resemblance to Richard Lynch in the Chuck Norris classic INVASION U.S.A.
The terrorists need the amulet, paired with it's sister--the "Lunar Mercury"--to aid their plans to attack the literal and symbolic American interests around the country (Helloooo, massive McDonald's & Hard Rock Cafe product placements!!). Interestingly, the film features a little boy with psychic powers who opens the film by demonstrating his ability to stop a stopwatch at will. Funny that they'd need a scene like that...
For the money the filmmakers spent (which still wasn't much by American standards), everything looks pretty good, but the computer effects are hobbled on occasion by a clear misunderstanding of the laws of physics on the part of their creators, such as those that would govern the car Mercury Man kicks into a billboard, where it becomes stuck rather than crashing through! Yes, I know it's a fantasy, and I can accept Mercury Man's metal-based powers allowing him to "fly" between metal objects without the aid of machinery or ropes or webs, but billboards can't stop cars! The cast is generally quite dull, but I've come to expect that in Thai cinema. Pretty faces, but not much expression, including the ones Mercury Man's boyish alter ego must suppress for fear of catching on fire, as his crotch nearly does when he cops a few glances at a Penthouse magazine tucked away in his drawer.
The action choreography, by Prachya Pinkaew and his ONG BAK/TOM YUM GOONG team, are the main reasons this is watchable, but there's a certain recycled feeling about them now, with only the more expensive costuming and modern-looking locations differentiating them from those seen in the earlier Tony Jaa films and virtually everything else that Pinkaew has touched to date. On top of that, there's one hell of a lot editing going on in these sequences. Every connected blow is followed by an immediate cut to a closeup or a long shot, which tends to make you wonder just how many stunt doubles are being disguised with every splice. Fans of BEAUTIFUL BOXER, the life story of trans-gender Muay Thai boxer Parinya Charoenphon, might enjoy watching her, largely undoubled it would seem, kick the snot out a batch of evildoers in white lab shirts.
And the final fight between Mercury Man and the villain's right hand babe, who's absorbed the power of the Lunar Mercury amulet, is worth watching for any number of reasons, notably the latter's transformation into a semi-naked frost warrior.
Though undoubtedly intended as an A-list picture in its homeland, and indeed, with its slick visuals and breezy pace, feeling and looking much more like one in comparison to a lot of the sloppily made crap that passes for populist cinema there, MERCURY MAN is nonetheless best viewed with lowered expectations, particularly if you aren't familiar with Thai cinema, otherwise you'll inevitably be tempted to actually compare it to the American superhero films it so brazenly dares you to.
Serbuan Maut (2011)
Just when you thought the book couldn't be rewritten . . .
NOTE: Early, gushing reviews from TIFF Midnight Madness presentations should not generally be trusted, as many fest-goers are unable to separate the film from the experience, and formal critical consensus often sends most Midnight films into obscurity. Thankfully, THE RAID earns its stripes and deserves its praise, and stands firmly above the typically overeager reactions heaped on many other films screened in the Midnight program this year and in years past.
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In the future, when someone tells you a movie is wall-to-wall martial arts and gunplay, you should have no choice but to ask them how it rates against this picture, which has so much gunfire and brutal martial arts action -- all of it meticulously choreographed in ways more refreshing than I'd ever have thought possible in this world of peak-performance Donnie Yens and Tony Jaas -- that I very nearly lost the hearing in my right ear, in no small part thanks to the tendency of TIFF sluggos to mistake volume for quality when adjusting their sound levels in an aged, less-than--acoustically-ideal theatre.
Star Iko Uwais is the real deal: wiry, lightning-fast and evidently the leader of a team of experts that truly takes martial arts choreography into new territory with this film (and, to a lesser extent, MERENTAU before it). If there's a downside to his inevitable celebrity because of this film, it's that Indonesian cinema in general will fare no better than Thai cinema has in the wake of Tony Jaa. Like Jaa, anything Uwais makes from this film on -- especially if he keeps teaming with writer-director Gareth Evans, as he should for at least a couple more pictures -- will gain instant and welcome interest from the west, while the rest of Indonesian cinema (such as it is!) will remain the domain of low-brow entertainment that caters largely to the locals, with the exception of the occasional horror movie that can be scooped up for exploitation by "Asian Extreme" DVD labels and streams in the U.S. and Europe.
What really separates this picture from the hordes of martial arts films from the region is its heavy use of Silat, the native martial art of Indonesia. I've seen a billion martial arts pictures over the years, and a million "styles" to go with them, but I'll admit my knowledge of Silat was absolute zero, and this movie turned out to be a wonderful wakeup call.
The key thing about Silat is that it involves knives, lots of 'em, and the film's heroes and villains deploy them with extreme prejudice for almost the entire duration. One stab won't do, but ten capped off by a throat slashing is a good way to gauge whether you've won the battle.
By way of example, picture the exemplary alley-fight-with-sharp-weapons between Donnie Yen and Jackie Wu Jing in SPL (a personal favourite sequence). Now, double the speed (!), and make the ultimate goal to stab, slice or otherwise eviscerate your opponent into oblivion, and you've got most of the hand-to-hand combat in THE RAID. Hero cop Uwais has this neat little trick where he stabs a long blade deep into your upper thigh, then yanks it clean down to your kneecap. Ouch! This thing is bloody with a capital B, but it's so exceptionally well choreographed, photographed and edited that you never lose sight of the geography surrounding the combatants or feel like you've missed a single blow or puncture as each new pair (or group!) of fighters grinds each other down.
Evans' editing in particular is a standout, and rather refreshingly, it isn't used to hide little bits of phony business or make the fight participants look more skilled than they really are, such as it often is in so many action pictures these days (both in western, and, sadly, many Asian cinemas; Legend of the Fist, I'm looking at you). Evans' performers know their stuff, and his editing does more showing than telling.
As to the picture as a whole, if you thought the final 40 minutes of John Woo's HARD BOILED were collectively one of the greatest pieces of action cinema from anywhere ever, imagine that cinematic Nirvana expanded to feature length, and with virtually no fat. The movie starts with a team of elite cops attempting to covertly secure a maze-like high-rise slum apartment building run by a merciless drug lord (when we first meet him, he's executing five bound and gagged men in his office, but he runs out of bullets for the fifth guy, which causes him to casually grab a hammer out of his desk drawer . . . ). Within minutes, though, his goons -- who populate every floor of the building like cockroaches, fight like rabid dogs and spontaneously appear around every corner and out of every doorway -- turn the tables and wipe out most of the fleet in a monster battle of guns, fists, feet and the ubiquitous knives, trapping just a precious few of our heroes on the sixth and seventh floors with little hope of escape.
Aside from a couple of quiet moments where allegiances on both sides of the field shift, not unexpectedly, that's pretty much it in terms of plot, and it obvious the filmmakers would have it no other way. This is a showcase, for Silat, for Indonesia and for Iko Uwais, who is very much the "next Tony Jaa" (as I'm sure he'll be labeled far and wide), for better and, somewhat regrettably, for worse in terms of his country's film industry, for he may very well come to single-handedly represent it around the globe. Not that I'm complaining after having been winded by such an audacious effort as THE RAID.
Barry Prima who?
Yi chu jing hun (1983)
Made in mainland china, so you can rule out an actual villain . . .
Supercheap real-life disaster story falls prey to superdumb sub-AIRPORT-style melodramatics and characterizations, trotting out the usual passenger list — the heroic co-pilot (Ray Lui), his stewardess girlfriend, the businessman and his conniving mistress, the snotty movie star, her panty-sniffing stalker, the folk singer, the benevolent doctor, the Buddhist monk and many more — then killing them all in a fiery stock-footage crash allegedly caused by a hat trick involving lightning, an open bottle of nitric acid and a bunch of exploding cigarette lighters! Shameless exploitation from the Mainland, badly directed and overacted, elicits tons of unintentional laughs.