Blu Tuesday: The Raid 2, Bad Words and Nymphomaniac

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“The Raid 2″

WHAT: In order to protect himself and his family from being targeted for retaliation, honest cop Rama (Iko Uwais) agrees to go undercover to find the source of corruption in the city’s police force. After making friends with the son of a respected crime boss, Rama is hired as an enforcer for the syndicate, only to find himself smack dab in the middle of a turf war between his boss and the Japanese yakuza.

WHY: It would have been all too easy for Gareth Evans to deliver a rinse-and-repeat sequel to his 2012 cult classic, so it’s refreshing to see the filmmaker take a risk with such a strikingly ambitious follow-up like “The Raid 2,” a slower, operatic crime saga with a lot more moving parts than its predecessor. The first movie was a non-stop action-fest with very little room for anything else, but while the added depth and drama is greatly appreciated this time around, Evans never forgets that he’s making an action film, sprinkling some bone-crunching, blood-spurting set pieces into each act. Many of the action scenes aren’t as memorable as the ones from the original, but they’re all ridiculously entertaining, including a fight inside a moving car that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Though the movie is a bit long at 150 minutes, the runtime is mostly justified considering the vast scope of the story. Some fans will undoubtedly be disappointed at how different it is from the original, but that’s exactly what makes it so great, because although “The Raid 2” may not provide the same adrenaline rush of its faster-paced, more contained predecessor, but it’s a richer and more sophisticated action-thriller that ranks among the best crime films ever made.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Gareth Evans, the Blu-ray release includes a short making-of featurette, a pair of more in-depth featurettes on location shooting and action choreography, a lengthy Q&A session with Evans, star Iko Uwais and composer Joe Trapanese and an ultra-violent deleted scene.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Bad Words”

WHAT: After middle-aged loser Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) uncovers a loophole in the spelling bee bylaws that allows him to participate in – and win – his regional tournament, he’s begrudgingly invited to the prestigious Golden Quill national spelling bee. But while Guy has ulterior motives for taking part in the competition, his endgame is threatened when he befriends a precocious 10-year-old contestant (Rohan Chand) willing to do whatever it takes to win.

WHY: If “Bad Words” sounds like the 2003 comedy “Bad Santa,” you’re not alone. But while the comparisons are inevitable, “Bad Words” isn’t nearly as crude or edgy as the holiday cult classic. That’s not to say that Jason Bateman’s directorial debut doesn’t have a mean streak, because it relishes every opportunity to be naughty, but the film also feels like it’s playing it safe at times so as to not completely alienate its protagonist. Guy is hardly a saint (his motives are not only selfish, but pretty juvenile), but he also isn’t as bad as he appears on the surface, as evidenced in the big brother-little brother bond that he forms with Chand’s pint-sized sidekick. The child actor is excellent opposite his director/co-star, but this is Bateman’s show, with Andrew Dodge’s script playing to the actor’s strengths so well that you’d think it was written specifically for him. It’s not easy making a jerk like Guy seem likable, but Bateman does a solid job of pushing boundaries without going too far over the line. That’s a credit to his work behind the camera as well, because although the story is a little undercooked and the big “twist” is entirely predictable, “Bad Words” delivers enough hilarious, foul-mouthed mischief to deserve its title.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by Jason Bateman, a making-of featurette and some deleted and extended scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Nymphomaniac: Volume I and Volume II”

WHAT: When she’s found beaten in an alley by a scholarly gentleman (Stellan Skarsgard) and taken into his home to tend to her wounds, self-diagnosed nymphomaniac Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) recounts her sexually depraved life story, from adolescence to adulthood.

WHY: Split into two parts for its U.S. release, probably because it would have been unbearable to watch in one sitting, “Nymphomaniac” is almost maddeningly pretentious, even for a director like Lars von Trier. This is a film with its head so far up its own ass – stretching to draw parallels between Joe’s sexual misadventures and subjects ranging from fly fishing to music theory) that it’s hard to discern whether von Trier is just fucking with the audience. “Nymphomaniac” is neither as intelligent nor as darkly comical as it pretends to be, and it’s also surprisingly anti-erotic for a movie largely about sex, although in the case of the latter, that might actually be the point. Unfortunately, that message is lost amid the dense screenplay, the lack of a compelling protagonist and some terrible acting by Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater and others. Newcomer Stacy Martin delivers a fearless and assured debut as the young Joe, but she’s one of the few highlights in an otherwise ugly and uninteresting film. So when her character weepingly declares, “I don’t feel anything,” at the end of Volume One, it’s easy to relate, especially with another (and worse) volume still left to slog through.

EXTRAS: There’s a behind-the-scenes fluff piece produced for AXS TV and a trio of featurettes about the film’s characters, director and sex scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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Movie Review: “The Raid 2″

Starring
Iko Uwais, Afrin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad, Oka Antara, Yayan Ruhian
Director
Gareth Evans

After directing what many consider to be one of the greatest action movies in history, Gareth Evans would have been excused had he buckled under the pressure. After all, they say that your sophomore effort is the most difficult, but what many people seem to forget is that “The Raid: Redemptionwas Evans’ sophomore effort, and he’s managed to follow it up with a film that’s not only just as good, but at times even better. “The Raid 2” is a very different beast compared to its predecessor – a slower, operatic crime saga with a lot more moving parts that require the necessary time to develop them properly. And while it would have been all too easy to give audiences a rinse-and-repeat sequel that offers nothing new, it’s refreshing to see a filmmaker like Evans go for broke with such a strikingly ambitious continuation to his 2012 cult classic.

Picking up several hours after the events of the first movie, honest cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is informed by one of his superiors that the only way he can protect himself and his family from being targeted for retaliation is to go undercover and find the source of corruption in the city’s police force. Following a two-year stint in prison where he makes friends with Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of respected Jakarta crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), Rama is hired upon his release to work for the syndicate as an enforcer. But when a turf war between Bangun and the Japanese yakuza is instigated by a third party hoping to take over after the blood has dried, Rama must fight for his life once again with new alliances formed and a group of dangerous killers standing in his way.

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A chat with Iko Uwais (“The Raid 2″)

Indonesian-born Iko Uwais may not be a household name yet, but he’s breaking down boundaries as quickly as his characters break bones. Action fans were blown away by his starring role as Rama in the 2011 martial arts extravaganza “The Raid: Redemption,” where he played a naïve cop fighting against a corrupt boss. In the meantime, he also paired with another martial arts icon in last year’s “Man of Tai Chi,” directed by and co-starring Keanu Reeves. This week, he returns in one of the most awaited sequels of the year (sorry, Cap) in “The Raid 2,” written and directed by his good friend, Gareth Evans. He recently sat down to discuss working with Reeves, his relationship with Evans, as well as bringing appreciation of his martial art form, pencak silat, to audiences around the globe.

BULLZ-EYE: How did you go about improving as an actor from your time in the original “Raid”?

IKO UWAIS: I learned a lot, especially from Gareth, because he knows the characters and the role. I took it into my heart, integrated everything and I played along. It happened naturally after that.

BULLZ-EYE: How does the Indonesian martial arts differ from other styles?

IKO UWAIS The basic moves are the same. The difference is that there are many types of pencak silat, Indonesian martial arts in Indonesia. From pencak silat alone, there are many different schools. Thousands of schools. In choreographing for this movie, I combined some moves from different schools.

BULLZ-EYE: How was it working with Keanu Reeves in last year’s “Man of Tai Chi?”

IKO UWAIS: I can’t explain, because I was really happy. I was happy to work with him. He was very wise. He was very friendly and he also directed the movie. He always told me what he wanted. Usually, there’s a relationship between the director and the actors. He approached the actors.

BULLZ-EYE: The fighting in the film is as breathtaking as it is violent. Does pencak silat also stress a spiritual side as well?

IKO UWAIS: Yes, absolutely. In pencak silat, especially, the spiritual aspect is very dominant.

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