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Rated 3.94 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
I Know Where I'm Going When I Die
by Donald Levit

Indonesian Pencak Silat looks indistinguishable from the other martial arts disciplines mixed in with The Raid: Redemption -- originally Serbuan Maut. And the film is indistinguishable, as well, from most any other chop-socky movie. The opener of a projected Rama trilogy by its writer/director/editor/co-choreographer Gareth Huw Evans, it mixes fighting styles, because Silat by itself “is not only illogical, but can also become boring.” This hour-and-two thirds movie, however, is both.

Selected for Toronto, Sundance and SXSW and included in MoMA/Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films, the nonstop actioner offers up a variation on a standard cop, horror and even cowboy setup, wherein the good guys are attacked and surrounded in their quarters. The difference is that the SWAT members do the attacking, on the headquarters of a narcotics kingpin, and are trapped inside the fifteen-floor apartment building run by their crime boss target, Tama (Ray Sahetapy), whose casual sloppiness and flip-flops belie his cruelty.

Rama (co-choreographer Iko Uwais) is a newcomer on the elite special-forces team that blunders into a building that has continually rebuffed rival gangs as well as law enforcement. Presumably for an added, outside dimension, he is shown early kissing his wife’s (Fikha Efendi) seven-months-pregnant belly and then promising his father (Hengky Solaiman) that “I’ll bring him back,” both of which are forgotten in the mindless carnage to follow -- only to be reintroduced, or forced in, near the end.

Chosen partly because single-location filming reduced expenses, the half-century-old building is all stone staircases and courtyard balconies, ratty elevators, long corridors and patchwork apartments, with a cellar drug lab. Down to bulletproof vests and helmets, the police are in black except for less young and less slim leader Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), who is not well prepared and unaccountably has not notified his superiors about the raid. That last omission means that, seemingly lacking the most basic communications equipment, or not daring to use it, the survivors of furious automatic weapon, machete and knife resistance are trapped inside.

Boss Tama has outside connections in high places but calmly prefers to handle the situation from within his domain. Through intercom-speaker promises and threats, he marshals the tenants to destroy the intruders. To be on the safe side, he sends out his two most efficient killer lieutenants with a few helpers each. While Andi (Doni Alamsyah) looks like a collegian in a blue sweater, Mad Dog (third action co-choreographer Yayan Ruhian) is physically slight but such an adept that he discards guns to finish off opponents with his bare hands and feet.

Hunted throughout the building, only two tiny groups of decimated police remain, noble Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) and Wahyu in one, Rama and wounded Bowo (Tegar Satrya) the other.

“I deal in blood and mayhem . . . for the pleasure of what I hope is a captivated audience,” says Evans. The corridors and apartments are full of that, as Rama and Jaka martial arts their path through the usual hordes of menacing thugs who wait behind one another while at most two engage at the same time.

Language should prove no deterrent to those who abhor subtitles (here, from Indonesian), for no understanding is necessary. All that surrounds it is mere excuse for the actual fighting. The problem is that the fighting seems the same, repeated endlessly and unimaginatively and not different from what scores of such films offer. Without humor or originality, this is straight video game.

(Released by Sony Pictures Classics, and rated "R" by MPAA.)


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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