FILM OF THE WEEK: The Raid
Friday September 12, Channel 4, 11:55pm
Despite Hollywood’s best efforts at appropriation, there was a time when Hong Kong remained unbeatable when it came to making martial arts movie classics. It had stars such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li; it had directors like Lo Wei, Lau Kar-leung and Yuen Woo-ping; and with studio titans like the Shaw Brothers, no one else could lay a hand on the then British territory, let alone a fist, foot or bo staff. This dominance came to an abrupt end in 2003, when Thailand’s Ong Bak introduced the world to the diminutive yet deadly Tony Jaa and offered up a new level of thrills through its brutal yet electrifying realism.
11 years later and just a few hundred miles south east, Indonesian actioner The Raid exploded onto screens with a similar in-your-face, up-your-nostrils and out-the-back-of-your-head-style kineticism. Where Ong Bak brought us the bone-breaking martial art of muay thai, The Raid provides a showcase for the equally mind-blowing fighting style of pencak silat. Stupendously violent, yet so creative you’ll laugh and applaud as much as you’ll wince and shudder, once again it raised the bar so high that the English-speaking world couldn’t help but watch goggle-eyed in wonder.
The plot is pleasingly minimal. A crack SWAT team is sent out to secure a Jakarta high rise full of Indonesia’s most heinous hoodlums, at the summit of which lies the fortress of a notorious crime lord. To describe their journey to the top as treacherous would be one of the understatements of the millennium. Inevitably, a US remake is in the works, and a sequel broadened the scope considerably, but as The Raid’s final fight scene proves, the simplicity of locking three killers in a room and letting them duke it out to the death is pretty much unbeatable.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
The Darjeeling Limited
Sunday September 14, Channel 4, 1:05am
Inexplicably one of Wes Anderson’s least heralded films, The Darjeeling Limited is actually one of the auteur’s most lyrically satisfying works. Meandering through the adventures of yet another dysfunctional family, three brothers (played by the perfectly odd trio of Adrien Brody, Jason Shwartzman and Owen Wilson) set out to rediscover themselves and each other by journeying through India on the luxury Darjeeling Limited train service. It might play best to committed Anderson fans, but if you’re not one to write his films off as ‘too whimsical’, you’ll take delight in the usual mix of harboured grudges, passive aggression and sibling rivalries, all with a deliciously exotic twist.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Sunday September 14, BBC Two, 10:45pm
No matter how many times you’ve seen Blade Runner, you haven’t properly seen it properly until you’ve watched The Final Cut, given that it is the only release of the film over which director Ridley Scott had complete artistic control. Thus – however geeky this may sound – it’s the only one to give audiences the true vision of his seminal adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction treatise on existence and mortality. Dangerous Days, a comprehensive documentary charting the making of the film, follows immediately after for all Blade Runner completists.
Thursday September 18, Film4, 9pm
Given the circumstances it had to contend with, it’s remarkable that Wadjda was made at all. First of all writer and director Haifaa al-Mansour spent five years securing funding for a film about the struggle of being female in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia. Then there was the fact that, whilst shooting on location in Riyadh, al-Mansour could not mix with the male film crew, and had to direct via walkie-talkies and a monitor. Her efforts were more than worthwhile, however, with the bittersweet tale of a girl and her dreams of owning a bicycle shining a light on a culture rarely represented in cinema.
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