Archive for the Iko Uwais Category

Iko Uwais returns in Headshot Teaser!

Posted in Iko Uwais, Sunny Pang with tags , on September 7, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

So what’s Iko’s answer to The Raid 2? How about Headshot, which is not directed by Gareth Evans, but looks the hell as if it were. The film is showing at TIFF this year, and Entertainment Weekly has the teaser and synopsis:

The film finds Uwais playing a nameless man who wakes up in a hospital with severe head trauma, not knowing who he is or what happened to him. Assisted by a student doctor Ailin (Chelsea Islan), who nicknames him “Ishmael” after the character in Moby Dick, he recovers and tries to regain his memory. But Ishmael’s past catches up to him, in the form of Lee (Sunny Pang), a drug lord and gang boss whose tentacles reach deep into the police and the penal system. When Ailin is kidnapped and Ishmael sets out to get her back, he finds himself pitted against an array of skilled fighters who may have been his former colleagues.

Yes, yes yes. This looks like a winner, folks! Iko is gonna be four for four (Man of Tai Chi doesn’t count)!  Also starring Sunny Pang and Julie Estelle! This can’t get here fast enough!

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Review: The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)

Posted in Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian with tags on April 21, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

The Raid 2.4

Starring Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Julie Estelle, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Cecep Arif Rahman, Very Triu Yulisman

Fight Choreography by Yayan Ruhian

Directed by Gareth Evans

The first Raid film took the world by storm just a few years ago. With breakneck action, amazing martial arts, and a tense story, I had deemed it a game-changer, and I was right as everyone else starting trying to race to catch up to the level of badassness that the first film had achieved. Just when folks were getting close, Gareth Evans releases The Raid 2: Berandal on us. So did they raise the bar again?

That depends on your disposition. 

The film begins literally hours after the first film, and we find out the final fate of Rama’s brother Andi, and from there we pick up with Rama (Uwais), wounds still fresh from the Raid, and he finds out that to keep his family safe, he’ll have to go undercover and topple one of the largest crime families in Indonesia. He does so, now under the name of Yuda, in order to get close to Uco, who is in prison. Rama also gets sent to prison, and spends two years there (!) getting close to Uco, but he does, and then once he gets out he finds employment with Uco as an enforcer. Uco’s father, Bangun, is a mob boss who has kept the peace with the local Japanese boss for years, but Uco’s greed seeks to unravel as he aligns himself with Bejo, one of the main bosses and the boss of the baddie from the first film. Things get complicated when a family hit man (Ruhian) and the twins, Hammer Girl (Estelle) and Baseball Bat Boy (Yulisman) enter the picture. Rama must navigate his own morals and find the strength to survive in a dark underworld, and finally has to face a horde of evil in order to get his life back.

The Raid 2.1

Whew. When I came out of the film I was shell-shocked. I’ll get to why in a moment. The storyline here is a good compliment to the first film and ties up any loose ends successfully. Things get a bit overlong in the middle, and I think one particular plot line that goes nowhere involving the assassin Prakoso and his family could have been left out and increased the pacing. (Know when to kill your darlings, Gareth). Iko Uwais returns as Rama and manages to look even more flustered and conflicted as ever. Great acting job from Arifin Putra (Goodness, but he looks like Brandon Lee) as the villain Uco. One moment he can act like a spoiled rich brat, and the next he can act like evil incarnate. Julie Estelle also does a great job as Hammer Girl, and I suspect we’ll be seeing some Hammer Girl costumes this Halloween. The camera work on the action scenes, particularly the car chase, has to be seen to be believed. Yes, the classic car chase can still be innovated even today, and Director Gareth Evans did just that.

The fight scenes by Yayan Ruhian are even more brutal than the first film (if that’s even possible) and in particular the final fight in the kitchen with Cecep Arif Rahman was the closer and was just as great as I expected it to be. That has to be my favorite fight next to the fight Rama versus Hammer Girl/Baseball Bat Boy. The other group fights are great, nothing that hasn’t been seen before, but well shot and choreographed. 

The Raid 2.2

Now I mentioned your disposition may decide how much you like the film. In this I am not kidding or exaggerating: there is a ton of blood and guts in this one. The blood flows like a river, and many a crushed skull, broken bone and point blank bullets to the face are seen here, I kid you not. Every frame of a fight is layered with a bucket of blood or a cringeworthy move that maims or kills. If you aren’t into the real bloody stuff, this may be too much for you. It’s as if, most will remember those 3 or 4 kills in The Raid that you always talk about with your friends, this film has those moments in nearly ever other frame. I found it a bit overkill and unnecessary and took me out of the film every once and a while. But to each their own.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Not the game changer of the original but still a great martial arts film that shows that the team of Gareth Evans, Yayan Ruhian and Iko Uwais are still on top, waiting for everyone else to catch up!

 

Review: Man Of Tai Chi (2013)

Posted in Iko Uwais, Keanu Reeves, Silvio Simac, Tiger Hu Chen, Yu Hai, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on March 31, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

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Starring Keanu Reeves, Tiger Chen, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, Silvio Simac, Iko Uwais, Yu Hai

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves is a polarizing figure. With his eternal surfer-dude voice and his connection to Bill and Ted that will haunt him until the end of time, he’s been a success in Hollywood even though his acting is somewhat monotone in nature (Kevin Costner’s been accused of this as well). The Matrix films featured Keanu doing complex martial arts fighting akin to what was current in Hong Kong kung-fu cinema (thanks to Yuen Woo Ping and his stunt team) and now Woo Ping returns, along with Tiger Chen, a stunt man in the Matrix films that Reeves befriended, and a bevy of martial arts stars to tell the tale of what happens when a good man falls from grace. 

The results are…hmm.

The story begins as we meek Donaka Mark (Reeves) a wealthy owner of a securities firm that is a front for underground fighting. His latest fighter refuses to kill his opponent, and is himself killed by Mark. Always on Mark’s tail is Hong Kong detective Jing Shi (Mok) who always seems a few steps behind Mark. Mark begins a search for a new fighter, which brings him to Tiger Chen (Chen), a Tai Chi fighter who has entered tournaments to prove that Tai Chi is a fighting art as well, to the dismay of his master Yang (Yu Hai). Mark becomes facinated with Tiger, and has him followed, with cameras placed around his apartment and at his parents home. Tiger is a good man who works as a delivery driver, and tries to provide for himself and his mother and father. Mark uses what he finds out to entice Tiger to become his new fighter. Tiger does this, as he has a violent tendency that Mark is able to feed, despite Tiger’s training. Tiger soon enters Mark’s world, and as the fights and stakes pile up, Tiger finds that the good man he is has disappeared, replaced by someone he barely knows. In essence, Tiger goes over to the Dark Side of the Force…

MOTC

The film is fairly straightforward and doesn’t offer any real surprises, and the script here really fails Reeves the Director. The main characters aren’t that interesting except for Simon Yam, and that’s just because he’s Simon Yam. Tiger is decent, but doesn’t really have the intense charisma I was looking for, even though his martial arts was excellent. Karen Mok plays the HK detective plainly, and Reeves acts pretty much as if he were still Neo from The Matrix, except for a few moments when he yells or screams or smiles/laughs maniacally, and those moments have given me nightmares, ‘cause it looks scary as hell–unintentionally. A face that has no emotion and then suddenly shows an extreme outburst of it is…disconcerting to say the least. I was extremely disappointed by the use of Iko Uwais here, and anyone who has seen The Raid, and by now The Raid 2 will agree. This could have been the fight of the film, and instead is a dud of a fight as the story intrudes at the wrong time.

The fighting here is done well, with one large exception. Yuen Woo Ping does a good job, but I can see there are issues with fusing his style with the harder styles of films choreographed by the likes of Panna Rittikrai and Yayan Ruhian. All of the matches Tiger gets into are good to great, the weakest being the fight versus Silvio Simac, a performer I know could have given a far better fight than they gave him. The film was supposed to be using a new motion camera to track the fights, but it wasn’t the game changer it was touted to be. The problem here is that no matter how long the fight is, it has to be edited, so that takes away from the moving 360- degree camera movements. 

MOTC4

The end fight of this film was the real disappointment. Reeves needed to remember that no matter how good he looked in The Matrix, he is NOT a martial artist, and has not been learning long enough to look good when put up against true martial artists. Here, he fights Tiger Chen in a fight that has none of the complexity of the other fights that came earlier in the film, ones that featured real fighters. His kicks were the weakest I’ve ever seen, but his fist work was passable (barely) and this reminded me of Man With The Iron Fists, and my anger at the hubris of the RZA for playing the main character even though he knew no martial arts. That same anger returned here. Reeves the Director could have cast Donaka Mark with Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White (if he has to be from America/Canada) or any number of other Asian actors, someone who would have made the final fight memorable. 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

I expected so much more, but there is a hint that Reeves could be a good director, but he has to know when to leave Keanu Reeves the actor at home.

 

The Raid 2: Berandal Trailer #1 (2013-14)

Posted in Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian on December 31, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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There are no words I have to describe the sheer awesomeness of this trailer. Just watch and watch again. The baseball bat. The final face off that looks to be a martial arts fight for the ages (that Sonny Chiba shuffle got me)…it just looks wonderful. 2014 can’t get here fast enough!

 

 

 

 

What’s that? Asskickery you want? The Raid 2: Berandal Teaser is here!

Posted in Iko Uwais, Uncategorized, Yayan Ruhian with tags , on November 6, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Thanks to the good folks at Twitch ( as it should be, since Todd Brown is a Producer on the film) we have our first look at The Raid 2: Berandal, and frankly it looks great.This is truly a teaser of the best kind, and refuses to give away too much for now. The sight of Iko Uwais punching a goddamn brick wall at rapid fire speed while images of the other various characters  including Hammer Girl and Yayan Ruhian as a new character pass by just makes me salivate for the final product. I really wish Roger Ebert was still around. Maybe he and I could’ve gotten into another tiny bit of back and forth as we did for the previous film.

Anyway, watch this thing about a thousand times below! 2014 can’t come fast enough…

An Open Letter to Roger Ebert

Posted in Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian with tags , , on April 6, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

(No real spoilers, but for those who haven’t seen it you may want to wait until afterward to read this)

I loved The Raid. Yep, loved it to death. I gave it a 10/10 in my review grade, and I’ll stand by that grade, as I do all others. I know I’m not alone, but there is a contingent of folks, few though they are, who didn’t like the film. Roger Ebert didn’t care much for it, and said so, and then further defended his one star review on his website. I have no issue with anyone who didn’t like the film. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and that’s fine. He had some good points as to why he didn’t care for it himself. What I take offense to is that his review and defense of it afterward felt like–and I could just be overly sensitive– it was hurling insults at those who did, and that’s wrong.

A martial arts film is like ice cream. There are hundreds of flavors, some appeal better than others, but each has their value. You have your flowery films, like in Yuen Woo Ping’s fight choreography in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or The House of Flying Daggers, or you can have comedy kung-fu, like Drunken Master or Rumble in the Bronx, pioneered by Jackie Chan. Then there are the bone-crunching films as done by Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen, Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Tony Jaa, Steven Seagal and yes, Iko Uwais. They range from period epics to fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary action. What they–and The Raid–aren’t is “violence porn”. No one is getting off on watching someone getting killed brutally or otherwise. Fans of martial arts films love the fight choreography and the performers involved.

If I want a Merchant/Ivory film where everyone sits around all day talking about their feelings over a cup of tea, then I’ll go watch Howards End. If I want to see what imaginative fights Panna Rittikrai, Yuen Woo Ping, Larnell Stovall or Yayan Ruhian have come up with this time then that’s what I go to see these films for, the same as those who go to musicals. What ultimately makes a musical good or not will be how good the music and dance numbers are. In much the same way, Martial arts films are decided by how good the fight choreography is. If the acting is good, that’s a bonus. It should at least be passable, and the martial artist some onscreen presence. If the story is great, once again that’s a nice bonus, but it does need to be decent. Jackie Chan’s films mostly sit on paper-thin stories that are built around whatever stunts he want to do for that film; this is fine because that’s why we go to see his films. The Raid is brutal. Yes, but so is Silat, the fighting style Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian use. It’s not nice, nor should it be portrayed as such onscreen. Anything less would dishonor the style they’ve spent a good portion of their lives studying.

One of my real issues comes from Roger Ebert’s review and then his defense of that review, especially one statement:

“There’s obviously an audience for the film, probably a large one. They are content, even eager, to sit in a theater and watch one action figure after another pound and blast one another to death. They require no dialogue, no plot, no characters, no humanity. Have you noticed how cats and dogs will look at a TV screen on which there are things jumping around? It is to that level of the brain’s reptilian complex that the film appeals.”
Where to start.

1. No dialogue.

It’s true that not much is said. What needs to be in their situation? Is the hero required to provide a dissertation on his life? Actually Roger’s assertion is only partially correct. There is a lot being said, but it’s being said with their expressions and glances. Due to their situation they don’t have the time for long drawn out conversations. In fact talking would probably alert the bad guys to where they are at, and that wouldn’t be a good thing.

2. No Plot.

Yes, there is a plot. It doesn’t have to be complex to define it as having one. Not that Roger got that right, either:

“The Raid: Redemption’ is essentially a visualized video game that spares the audience the inconvenience of playing it. There are two teams, the police SWAT team and the gangsters. The gangsters have their headquarters on the top floor of a 15-story building, where they can spy on every room and corridor with video surveillance. The SWAT team enters on the ground floor. Its assignment: Fight its way to the top, floor by floor.”

Their assignment was to go in and capture Tama. They didn’t WANT to fight floor by floor, and this is reflected by how they entered the building, which was quietly. The point is during the raid things go wrong, and Tama is notified. The police try to escape by going down, but they are cut off, and they understand that only by getting Tama can they get out alive, but that in itself would be suicidal. So there is a plot.

3. No Characters

Rama seems to be a good character, and while true, you don’t get to learn a lot about him, but you know enough, and what about Mad Dog? He was a fun character, and turns out to be most people’s favorites. He was an unrelenting villain, who enjoys the fighting to a maniacal degree. Andi, another one of Tama’s lieutenants, is also a pretty good character because he’s got his own motivations that may place him at odds with Tama’s plans. Then there is Jaka, the SWAT team leader, a brave and loyal man who is placed into a difficult situation under fire, and is determined to get his men out alive.

4. No humanity.

Once again, completely not true. What about the tenant in room 766, who protects the police at his–and his wife’s–peril? The SWAT unit is placed into a bad situation, once in which killing–or incapacitating– as quickly as possible is the only means to survive, and that is what the film is about–survival. If you note Rama leaves quite a few people alive, and in fact he actually leaves more bad guys alive than he kills, even though he leaves them really, really hurt.

Folks who love martial arts films love them for many reasons. Yes, we still appreciate films that have a human dimension, meaning and morality. If I want a martial arts film with that kind of story, I always have them to lean on. I consider myself to be an intelligent man, and I’ve reviewed dozens of martial arts films, and will review hundreds more.

I loved The Raid.

It doesn’t make me a simple-minded or morally bankrupt person because I do.

Michael S Moore