Review Date: 3/5/17
Director: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Action Choreography: Iko Uwais
Cast: Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Chelsea Islan, Sunny Pang, Very Tri Yulisman
An unidentified body (Iko Uwais) washes up on the beach and is taken to a hospital, where doctor Ailin (impossibly pretty Chelsea Islan) stitches him back together and attempts to nurse him back to health. When he finally regains consciousness, he has no memory of who he is, so Ailin names him Ishmael. While searching for clues to his identity, we learn that he used to be a violent killer who was shot in the head and left for dead when he attempted to desert his ruthless boss (psychotic Sunny Pang). Unfortunately, when boss Lee discovers that Ishmael is still alive, he has his men kidnap Ailin and go on a massive killing spree trying to hunt him down. Ishmael dedicates himself to rescuing Ailin and brings the fight back to Lee and his gang of merciless killers.
First of all, while the film features several prominent players from "The Raid 2" (2013), it is nothing like Gareth Evans' films. The shaky handheld camera work is extremely aggravating and frustrating to watch, but at least it follows the action in long sustained shots. Pretty much every fight is filmed by a guy who runs in circles around the main players, which gets old pretty quickly. The choreography is solid and hard hitting, but the camera work fails to do it justice. Iko Uwais and his stunt team deliver excellent performances, and Uwais does a great job of selling physical pain. His frantic, loose, and sloppy looking style is reminiscent of Jackie Chan and underscores his desperate plight. It also invites empathy and gives Uwais a charming underdog quality, despite the fact that he's better than everyone else. One of the highlights of the film is a fight between Uwais and a knife-wielding Julie Estelle (Hammer Girl from "The Raid 2"), which is impressively intense and well executed.
The acting is surprisingly good and Uwais gives a nicely balanced performance of strength, determination, vulnerability, and remorse. Sunny Pang goes a bit over the top as a sadistic villain, but it falls in line with the genre. Chelsea Islan is amazingly pretty and imbues her character with charm, playful feistiness, conviction, terror, defiance, and feminine grace. However, her fascination and oddly romantic obsession with the comatose Ishmael is a bit creepy. Ironically, she's also the only character who can actually hit a target with a gun, despite having never fired one before. It becomes increasingly laughable that throughout the entire film the bad guys repeatedly can't hit anyone at point-blank range. Despite being relegated to a romantic interest and damsel in distress role, she brings a lot of dramatic strength to the table and provides some of the film's most intense moments.
The film is relentlessly and brutally violent, but it lacks the style, grace, and sophistication of the superior "Raid" movies. It's a simplistic and straight forward action film with a strong no-nonsense attitude, and taken on its own merits it's an exciting and entertaining action romp that genre fans will surely enjoy.
Funniest Credit: Rain Stopper. Setting aside the obvious, what does a rain stopper do and how do they do it? And what are the requirements for becoming one?