The Raid: Redemption (2011)
During several of the numerous nerve-shredding, head-splitting fight scenes spread throughout writer/director Gareth Evans’ 2012 action masterpiece “The Raid: Redemption”, I had no idea I was holding my breath until the final, perfectly-orchestrated blow had landed. Everything about the feature is top notch, from the cinematography to the choreography to the picture’s ability to generate overwhelming suspense. And while the film’s premise may sound brutally simple — a group of heavily-armed police officers storm a building teaming with violent criminals — there’s a surprising amount of depth and emotional resonance to be found nestled in-between the films nerve shattering, adrenaline soaked set pieces. “The Raid: Redemption” is easily — easily — one of the finest action experiences I’ve ever had. Hands down. The bar has been raised to astronomical levels. Here’s hoping everyone else can catch up. Even if action films aren’t your thing, this one will have you on the edge of your seat in no time flat. An instant classic, one that’s sure to receive multiple viewings when it hits Blu-ray. I can’t recommend it enough.
Stash House (2012)
The reviews for “El Gringo” director Eduardo Rodriguez’s second After Dark Action effort “Stash House” have not been good, which is why I approached this suburban thriller with seriously adjusted expectations. Although I love the big guy to death, star Dolph Lundgren doesn’t always make the smartest choices, cinematically speaking. The film – which could best be described as a B-grade knock-off of David Finchers superior “Panic Room” – finds Lundgren playing the villain, a role that, to be honest, doesn’t suit him all that well. Didn’t really buy it in “The Expendables”, and, sadly, I don’t buy it here, either. As the story progresses, logic and common sense have taken an extended vacation, leaving you to house sit a truckload of unruly loose ends and unsightly plot holes. To make matters worse, stars Briana Evigan and Sean Faris don’t make for the most sympathetic of protagonists. Although “Stash House” isn’t the train wreck others have made it out to be, but you could certainly do much better. Mediocre, at best.
Wild 7 (2011)
Director Eiichiro Hasumi’s glossy, high-energy Japanese action flick “Wild 7” concerns itself with a group of career criminals who are forced to perform “supralegal” police maneuvers against their will. Fail to comply with orders and it’s back to the slammer or, for some, death row. In other words, “Wild 7” is kind of like “Charlie’s Angels”, except, you know, with dudes and ex-cons. And motorcycles. Can’t forget the motorcycles. Granted, the film isn’t the smartest action thriller currently available in Japan, but what it lacks in brains it certainly makes up for in brawn. Some of the subplots could have been removed to tighten the story’s pacing a bit, but, in the end, they all tie together nicely. “Wild 7” seems like it would make for a fine franchise, though I honestly can’t see the formula holding up beyond one or two sequels. Those who are looking for an easily digestible slice of stylish, black leather action, this is sure to be your newest guilty pleasure. It also helps if you like guns and pretty people. Oh, and motorcycles.