Beautifully choreographed martial arts in “The Raid: Redemption”

The closing credits of “The Raid: Redemption” tell a lot about this
Indonesian import. There are no stunt people listed because the
entire cast consists of stunt performers. Plus, there was a staff of
16 medical personnel on the set. Judging by the level of mayhem in
the movie, one can assume the medical people were kept busy.

The plot set-up is simple. In the slums of Jakarta, a huge rundown
apartment building has become a fortress controlled by the drug lord Tama (Ray
Sahetapy). He has been able to enlist a well-armed, and cheap, army
of defenders by allowing them sanctuary in the building. Since most
of them are criminals, Tama has a lot of takers. Also, he has allies
in the neighboring complexes. Thus the building is protected like Ft. Knox.

Despite this, a SWAT team is dispatched to go in and take out Tama.

“The Raid” opens with scenes to introduce the hero, a young rookie
cop named Rama (Iko Uwais). He gets up pre-dawn, does a Rocky
Balboa-type workout, has some sweet moments with his very pregnant
wife and goes off to work.

But this is going to be a very trying day for Rama. He is part of
the SWAT unit being tasked with taking down Tama and his empire. A
brief but vital scene early in the movie gives a hint that for Rama,
something personal is at stake in this operation.

The SWAT unit stealthily breaches the apartment complex with
precision and teamwork but soon learns bloodily that it is hopelessly
outmanned. Tama, in his 15th floor domain — flanked by his top
lieutenants, Andi (Doni Alamsyah), the brains of the operation, and
the appropriately named Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), the muscle — has
surveillance cameras throughout the building, along with youngsters
who serve as spotters.

The bad guys wait until a hasty retreat for the SWAT team is
impossible and the cops are cornered. A vicious gunfight ensues, with
thousands of rounds of ammo being fired, mostly missing targets.
Still, most of the policemen are casualties, and once the artillery
runs out, “The Raid” segues into a martial arts adventure.

The surviving SWAT members learn that any hope for reinforcements
has been dashed. The few that are still functioning soon are
separated, making them even more vulnerable.

Once “The Raid” goes into hand-to-hand — and foot-to-foot –
combat, it becomes a mesmerizing showcase of beautifully
choreographed martial arts battles. It’s a ballet of brutal violence
taken to preposterous extremes, as easily 90 percent of the kicks,
punches and flips are ineffective. Rama, in particular, engages in
some matchups that truly are incredulous — the typical encounter in
which he must go up against several foes who attack one at
a time. No pileups here. Then, Rama emerges victorious but barely
bloodied and spent, ready to take on the next squad of attackers.

There is a subplot involving cop corruption, but it is easily
overwhelmed by the mounting pile of broken bodies. The title, using
the word “redemption” is a giveaway. No bad guys survive a movie with
that word in the title. Rama may be beat up but still on his feet.

For fans of the martial arts genre, “The Raid” more than delivers.
The action scenes are relentless and the viewing audience will walk
out feeling pretty spent.

Pearce wisecracks his way through “Lockout”

As guilty pleasures go, “Lockout” is as good as any escapist film.
The brainchild of Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element,” “Point of No
Return” and “The Professional”), who co-wrote the screenplay with
co-directors Stephen St. Leger and James Mather, “Lockout” is another
futuristic thriller that features a sardonic anti-hero who cracks the
wise remarks throughout the movie in between dispatching bad guys and
beating overwhelming survival odds.

Guy Pearce gets a shot at a role that a lot of actors likely relish
– the disheveled loner who has accepted that the world has dealt him
a bad hand but instead of whining just reacts with loads of sarcasm
and nose-thumbing at those with power over him.

It is 2057, and the world has found a way to deal with the
overcrowded prison system. The convicts are sent to a space station,
where they are stashed into cryogenic-type pods and put to sleep.

Maggie Grace (“Taken”) is Emilie Warnock, the daughter of the
President who is on a humanitarian fact-finding mission,
investigating claims that the sleep-induced prison sentences are
having bad mental effects on the inmates. In a case of severely bad
timing, Emilie happens to be on the prison space station when a
massive prisoner breakout ensues. rendering her a hostage.

Meanwhile, Snow (Pearce) is some sort of operative who is set up to
take a dive for the death of a high-ranking operative and is about
to be shipped off to the prison in the sky. Naturally, plans change
when Emilie becomes a hostage and Snow gets a chance to redeem
himself if he can get into the prison and whisk Emilie out.

Pearce gets all the good lines in “Lockout,” an otherwise
predictable action movie that has some not really surprising twists
and the usual initially adversarial relationship between the rescuer
and the hostage. The actor looks like he is having a good time
despite being forced to endure some bumps and bruises along the way.
The only real surprise is that at the end, Emilie does not fall into
Snow’s arms, all misty-eyed. She does, however, have a new appreciation
for Snow, attitude and all.

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