For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
Fans of pure action cinema are apt to grow delirious with glee over The Raid: Redemption,
an Indonesian crime thriller that relies so much upon the universal
language of violence, one could enjoy it without subtitles.
Opening Friday in area theaters, the film carries the barest of plots. For 10 years, a much-feared mobster in a 15th-floor compound has ruled over a decrepit apartment building housing not only his narcotic enterprise, but also the dregs of society. Finally, the local SWAT team has garnered the guts to take it down, one ascending stairwell at a time – corner by corner, room by room, floor by floor.
The mission goes as planned until the fifth floor, when the proverbial crap hits the fan. From there, the team is forced to take routes unintended as they battle the den of thieves and junkies. Weapons employed on both sides include guns, knives, an ax, a machete and even a refrigerator.
And naturally, good ol’ fists and feet. This high-concept shot of adrenaline pays off the promise of writer/director Gareth Evans’ so-so 2009 chopsocky effort, Merantau, offering one inventive, powerhouse sequence of action acrobatics after another, with precious little breathing time left in between.
The downside is that it eventually exhausts the viewer; 89 minutes versus 101 would have been perfect, but Evans attempts to infuse a little brotherly love in Act 3 for added weight. The Raid doesn’t need it, because scenes of people plummeting from balconies is admission-worthy alone.