Apparently it takes a Welshman in Indonesia to remind the western world how breathtaking action cinema can really be. Gareth Evans is the man behind The Raid, a new feature that traps a SWAT team in a rundown city tenement block. Here they’re at the mercy of a gang of criminals whose sense of community spirit involves automatic weapons and rusty machetes.
Evans was inspired by everything from Bruce Willis’ skyscraper-bound adventures in Die Hard through to Bruce Lee and pretty much his entire back catalogue. As a result, The Raid is a stunningly confident exercise in tension, brutal, yet balletic, hand-to-hand combat and how to get out of a tight spot using a fridge and a canister of compressed gas.
So here’s the big difference between East and West. The heroes of the East spend years training in their chosen form of martial artistry which, as a happy by-product, looks pretty great on camera. Computer-generated fighting robots are too often considered the height of Hollywood’s visual prowess.
The Raid may well inspire the Hollywood studios, although the western industry is a bit distracted at the moment by the pretty staggering success of The Avengers. Perhaps there’s a way of combining Hollywood’s taste for gangs of film icons with the pulpy, cinematic sensibilities of, say, Quentin Tarantino?
The Studio Boss, dressed in her flowing cape and hood, and leaning on her cane for support, will summon the bedraggled and chained Writer into her palatial office, as she surveys the Los Angeles cityscape. The Writer kneels: “My Master.”
Studio Boss turns slowly and cracks a smile: “Right-Er. I want cinematic icons meeting Die Hard sensibilities. I want cult heroes of the big screen locked in a dank tenement block and fighting for their lives. I want to take the best of The Avengers and The Raid to create a new, ultimate franchise that revitalises the action genre in this town! What can you give me?”
The Writer coughs and pulls a piece of crumpled file paper from his ragged clothes: “Sire. We’ll put the best of Tarantino’s characters in an apartment block. There’s Mr Blonde from Reservoir Dogs, who’s obviously handy with sarcasm and a razor blade. We have Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction, who can do intensity and great biblical monologues.
“Then we have the real warriors of the piece. There’s The Bride from Kill Bill, who’s the true samurai warrior. There’s Aldo Raines from Inglourious Basterds, who comes with a military background, a bizarre southern accent and a large hunting knife. I think we should cap it off with the German officer Hans Landa, also from Inglourious Basterds, because he has the requisite one-liners that will help diffuse tension after a particularly bloody action sequence.
“Together there’ll be so bad-ass they’ll make the Avengers look like the Power Rangers. Thoughts, my Master?”
Studio Boss approaches her Writer and allows herself an evil cackle. Operatic music swells in the background due to an expensive, but nonetheless faulty stereo system: “You have done well, Right-Er, and it may yet win you your freedom. Mr Blonde, Jules Winnfield, The Bride, Aldo Raines and Hans Landa together at last!
“Tarantino will write and direct it himself! We’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse. They’ll take on the revived Crazy 88 from Kill Bill and perhaps the best of Hollywood’s real (and wannabe) visual effects technicians armed with lightsabers that they’ve animated themselves – stuff like that’s all over YouTube – and the tenement block carnage will be cinematic!
“There’ll be loud and intimidating opening put-downs from a crazy-eyed, fuzzy-haired Jules Winnfield. Blade-wielding action from The Bride and Aldo Raines follows, as Mr Blonde offers razor-blade-flavoured dessert to the tune of Stuck In The Middle With You. Hans Landa will deduce where the enemy is hiding before capping off their gory victory with his trademark ‘That’s a bingo!’
“They’ll fight their way to the top floor where they’ll find banks of computers devoted to the production of soulless computer effects. In a scene loaded with visceral cinematic symbolism – and probably filmed in super slow motion – they’ll destroy the place, ushering in a new era of Hollywood filmmaking that’s forced to take inspiration from the daring and ballsy East.”
Studio Boss gets caught up in her own pitch and punches the air with a withered fist. Guards drag the grimacing Writer away, but he looks back forlornly: “At least have me frozen in carbonite! I think I’ll have more use as a decorative item…”
The only response is a maniacal laugh. Plus the idle thought that perhaps Right-Er deserves a new typewriter for his efforts.