The Raid (2012)


Every year there are a slew of action films that come to the cinemas and DVD outlets. For the most part these are relatively generic films suffering from uninspired plots/script and starring cookie cut actors. It is a genre where you check your head at the door and watch the mediocrity for two hours with the occasional cheer and/or chuckle, and rarely an incredible action sequence that you talk about later.
Then along comes an action film that stands apart... this is one of them.
The Raid doesn't sport a new or unique plot: A Police unit must raid a tenement to capture a gang lord – hijinks ensue. But, oh the hijinks.
The film opens with our protagonist (Rama, played by relative newcomer Iko Uwais) enjoying marital bliss – waking with his pregnant wife and preparing for his job – establishing that Rama is just like us, an Everyman. Dressed for action he joins his team in a truck driving towards the tenement and is given his briefing. Who the bad guy is, who his bodyguards are, etcetera etcetera. Lieutenant Wahyu, who is commanding the Raid, makes the point of singling Rama out as a rookie amongst the elite team and gets him placed at the back so as not to cause trouble.
The Raid begins easily enough, the team infiltrates the complex easily enough with some nicely shot manoeuvres, scaling the tower. As always though, after a while they are not quick enough and the alarm is sounded. What follows is a beautifully shot battle between the scum and villainy of the tenement and the 'elite cops', culminating in the film's conclusion.
One of the things that sets the film apart is the form of martial art used, the traditional Indonesian Pencak Silat. The style as portrayed in the film is efficient and brutal in its elegance. The camera work in this film, particularly during combat is brilliant, conveying inertia and potency that leaves almost all of the big budget actions films I've seen these last years, well behind. There is care and forethought to how the actors move on set as well as to what the viewer will see of it. Very rarely does the camera not move fluidly, which keeps the audience's adrenaline running rather than making them queasy, which is surprising considering how close into the fray it gets.
I can't really speak to the acting as I've only been to Indonesia a few times and am not sure what the standards or nuances are for actors there, but it does hold up well compared to western action heroes. Although, being that most of the movie is an action scene, most of the extras just throw punches and take hits with the appropriate screaming and gurgling and thus not requiring Academy Award winning dramatists.
Watching this film I look forward to seeing what Director Gareth Evans, Cinematographer Matt Flannery, and Iko Uwais have in store next. As a second film for the team, this is a great outing keeping me engaged throughout.

I gladly give this film 8/10 for pure entertainment.


Ghost Rider - Spirit Of Vengeance (2011)

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance Movie posterWhen I first heard that there was going to be another Ghost Rider movie I was cautious, especially when it was said to be a sequel and a reboot. It sounded like it was complete BS from Columbia Studios to get people to ignore the first film, which while it made money it didn't survive the critics wrath as other comic book adaptations have and was treated almost as poorly as the dismal Catwoman. It wasn't that the first film was bad per se, more that you had to remove certain parts of your brain to enjoy it.

Then I heard that it was to be directed by the guys that did Crank and its sequel, which made me feel a little iffy – Would this be a serious attempt to make an action-horror or would it just be a series of over-the-top explosions with little in the way of plot? Then came the first trailer for Spirit Of Vengeance and the trepidation went away. It looked good and the story, while cliché, sounded like it could be pulled off reasonably well. It seemed like there was going to be a melding of the crazy action that these guys do plus a decent good versus evil plot that if anything should at least be entertaining. And there was Idris Elba in there for good measure.

I should have known better.

This was one of the worst comic adaptations I've seen. It would be easier to say what I liked than what I didn't as the film left such a poor taste in my mouth I've started to think better of the first film. Spirit of Vengeance feels similar to the Punisher: War Zone that came out a few years back – Half Hearted, poorly funded, ill-conceived, and a dozen other ways of describing dreck.

Where to begin? How about Nicholas Cage. Over the years I've come to get used to Nicholas Cage and the performances he delivers. Sometimes they are fun (Drive Angry) at others creepy (Adaptation) sometimes enjoyable in an Elvisy way (Matchstick Men), but most of the time it's the same bland character saying different lines. This time out, Cage plays his character as a junkie with a moral code who understands he's a dickhead and doesn't even try to change. That should say enough about this movie to make you put it back on the shelf and walk away.

As to the other actors: Violante Placido (The Damsel in Distress), Idris Elba (The Drunken Monk), Christopher Lambert (The Zealot), and Ciaran Hinds (The Devil) – their performances are far from being their A game let alone their C game. They are bored and uninterested.

As for the story itself? Well, it is less a Good versus Evil story as it is boring versus boring. In order for a film of this genre to engage you it needs either or both of the following:

An excellent Hero or Villain or at least someone charming enough to make you leave reality outside for two hours.

A brilliant script that enable the viewer to ignore poor performances because they are so engaged in the dialogue.

This film has neither. The Characters are just dumb and the actors really do nothing to make them anything more than cardboard cut-outs parading on screen. With not a single one of them redeemable you really don't care if they survive the film let alone the next minute or two (secretly you hope that they won't because then you wouldn't have to listen to them speak again). The dialogue is atrocious and the story labours from moment to moment like an amputated meth-head (not easily).

Probably the only thing this film has that can offer it up even an iota of redemption is the special effects. They honestly look good even if they are used in many a stupid and irritating way and aren't entirely consistent. How the studio or directors thought they'd be able to use the scene of Ghost Rider taking a leak more than once is beyond me, but they do and to the detriment of the product.

All in all, this film was a very poor outing for the Character and Columbia and should be avoided unless you take pleasure in badly made movies, and not bad in a good way, but actual bad. Thankfully this film didn't do particularly well (although it did make some money) so we probably won't have another offering from this soiled slate.

1 out 10 because even I don't have the heart to give something 0.


The Power of One

Recently the issue of democracy and the power of the individual in a society has started to really get on my nerves. Does democracy work? Is there any point in the individual speaking out? Is anyone listening or do they really care?

I've become a little jaded with this over the years as I know in my personal experience that in the Australian system I do not count for much except for tax dollars – middle class, unmarried, no kids, etc – but then again I don't lobby for personal issues such as less tax or concessions, rather focusing on broader issues that I perceive has a greater importance such as the environment. That's democracy for me, choosing the issues a person wants to support and doing their best to get that issue put forward and resolved.

It's not an easy thing to get an issue recognised, it needs the weight of many people behind it and it always helps if the media can give you some coverage, but as long as you try for something you can at least then complain if the outcome is not to your liking.

Most of the complaints I hear is that an issue didn't go how the person thought it should. When I ask them what they did to support the issue, they often reply that they did nothing, not even generate a petition or send a letter/email to their representative. To this I reply, “then how did you expect to get the outcome you wanted?” That usually ends the conversation. After all, most issues that people discuss have many players representing different agendas and more often than not, the loudest or most populous voice wins.

The ability to provide passive support for an issue has become much easier in recent years with the formation of online lobby groups that regularly develop petitions and campaigns that can be supported by a mouse click and a small monetary donation. These groups have forums for members to put forward ideas and help develop them into future campaigns, so if they are not covering the issue you want yet, you can start to get it into people's heads so it can become a global issue. There is really no reason why anyone can complain about a lack of opportunity to support whatever issue they want so long as they have access to the Internet, which is widely available in Australia. These groups also provide links to other groups so that you can escalate your involvement to a level of your choosing.

There is however another way by which an individual can express their democratic rights, and it is actually one of the more potent methods I know of – Money. Money is vitally important in today's society, and the more of it you have the more powerful you can become. The thing is that any level of money is power. Every cent you spend, invest, or save effects the economy. The way you spend your money on a daily basis can be the most effective way to create change.

Think about your grocery shopping for a minute. Where do you do the majority of your shopping? Is it at one of the large chain supermarkets and independent Grocer or at a farmers market? If the answer is the chain, then your money is going first to the corporation and down the chain paying staff and suppliers and shareholders. If it's a Farmers Market, then it is usually going direct to the primary producer then paying staff and suppliers. The major difference is the local distribution of the money and the level of participation in profits.

This also the same with regards to other sectors of the economy. Unless there is a monopoly, you have a choice.

In Australia, we are afforded enough choices in our purchases that we can choose how locally our money interacts with the economy. Small decisions regarding the locality of our spending can make great differences. A local producer who earns more will start to expand and will thus need to employ more people to keep up with demand which means more local wages which will then be spent in the community, thus keeping the local community in fiscal health.

The difficulty in ascertaining where your money goes once you've bought an item is all on of education but thanks to the Internet this education has become easier to get. A quick search on a company can give you a great deal of information regarding who they are, their corporate philosophy, their ownership and profit sharing. This information is vital if you want to use your money to change your society.

It's not just where you get your products from though, it's also the products that you use. Who owns the company? Where is the product manufactured? Where are the ingredients/components sourced? Where do the profits go? Does the company match your own philosophy?

These are vital questions to ask if you want use your money to change society. There are numerous companies that have a poor track record in regards to the environment, labour, human rights, etcetera and when I have become aware of these companies I have chosen not to purchase their products thus not supporting their actions and ever so slightly removing a bit of their power.

This philosophy works for all aspects of trade from Produce to Technology, Fuel to Insurance and everything in between. Every company that exists, exists only by the will of consumers. If they have no-one to buy their product, they don't exist for long.

Now, you're probably thinking that one person's purchases doesn't really amount to anything. And in a way that is true, but that one person can also talk to people about these issues and maybe the other person will choose to act accordingly.

An industry that I hear a great many complaints about, whether it's the media or an individual, is banking. The media reports that the RBA has opted not to increase the cash rate then a week or so later the Banks raise their rates anyway stating other factors as the cause. To anyone that complains about the banks I simply ask “Why don't you change to a bank that treats you how you want to be treated? Do you think the banks wouldn't notice if they suddenly had clients closing accounts and moving to another facility? Do you not think Banks would begin to change their operations in order to keep their customers?”

After all, Banks need their clients money in order to operate and thus generate their profits. So, without your money, the Bank can't operate.

This is not some esoteric knowledge, this should be common sense. All it takes is a little effort. Learn who you are dealing with and change your dealings accordingly. If you can't be bothered to change, don't complain when the world doesn't change the way you want it to.

It is up to the individual to utilise their money to demand the products, services, and price they want. True, it may take a bit more effort to get the right product and price, but in the end by changing your habits and who gets your money, you start to change the fabric of the economy to suit your philosophy rather than the other way around. This is the power of a free market, this is the power of choice, and this is a far greater power (in my opinion) than casting a vote every four years and expecting that things will just work out right. Your money is the greatest tool of Democracy you have.

You can complain to a company regarding their practices and hope for change, or you can force change by stripping the company of your money. After all, the buck can stop with you.

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