A massive let down - Stefano Brucone
The overwhelmingly positive reviews that this film has garnered perhaps says more about the current state of the action movie genre than the actual quality of a movie that starts extremely well but then quickly becomes unimaginative and dull. Unlike his Hollywood contemporaries, Iko Uwais, relies on his impressive physicality rather than CGI. He plays a young policeman who is part of an elite squad, sent in to a massive apartment block, atop of which sits a drugs kingpin they must fight their way up to capture.
The whiff of video game to this set up only gets stronger as the film progresses. In fairness, the opening is terrific. As the residents become aware of the SWAT team in their midst and all hell breaks loose, Uwais shines, working his way through corridors of henchmen with brutal efficiency. The sense of danger and realism is palpable and there is genuine creativity in the fight sequences.
And then suddenly, it all goes wrong. This coincides with the introduction of an "end of level boss" who likes to kill people with his bare hands. From this point on, the film becomes an absolute bore. All pretence at realism is gone. The scene where Uwais attacks the drug production centre of the building is pure farce. How is it that every drug addict, mule and production line packager is proficient in martial arts? That in itself would be excusable if there was anything original about the fights. We've seen them done thousands of times before. Shout, kick, block, punch, jump, kick. Next.
And then there is the threshold for pain. The internal logic of the film is completely undermined by the scriptwriters who want a familial face off so badly that they have one character sustain a stabbing and a ten minute stretch as a punch bag before dusting himself off for a strenuous work out which involves getting his head kicked against a wall several times. Rather than severe brain damage, he is fully cogent and able bodied by the end of it all. Again, this would be acceptable if the film hadn't rooted itself so firmly in realism at the start.
In terms of choreography, the final fight scene is repetitive and banal, so much so that it has to resort to a sickening spot of ultra-violence to reach a climax.
Overall, this is a hugely disappointing film. The reviews would have you believe that you are about to witness a defining moment in cinema, a new Ong Bak, when all you are really getting is a sub-standard Jason Statham movie with a decent 20 minute opening. A real pity as this could have been so much better.
Review published on the 27 May 2012 15:20
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