The Raid 2 (18, 150 mins)
The Raid 2 (18, 150 mins)
Director: Gareth Evans
Indonesian action thriller The Raid became an instant sensation when it was released in cinemas two years ago, praised for the simplicity of its set-up and the verve and ferocity of its martial arts mayhem.
Now British director Gareth Evans has returned with a sequel that attempts to top everything that has come before, and which meets with mixed levels of success.
It does, or at least tries to do, what a decent sequel should, which is to give you more of what made the first film successful, alongside elements that expand it in new directions.
And expand it certainly does, with a sprawling and complex tale of gang warfare between Jakarta's crime lords that even brings in the Yakuza.
Unfortunately the mistake made here is the assumption that bigger automatically means better, both in terms of plot and action.
By turning it into a crime saga featuring so many characters, it has become vastly over-populated, with the main problem being that 99% of them weren't in the first film.
The star once again though is Iko Uwais, who returns as Rama, the one good cop who took on an entire tower block of bad guys in the first film.
This follow-up begins not long after those events, with Rama recruited to go undercover and infiltrate a crime syndicate headed by a Japanese gangster and his son.
There's a lot of ground to cover to get to this point though, with a spell in prison for Rama apt to lead to confusion.
It also appears to completely abandon his mission, which was supposed to be to root out crooked cops, in favour of scene after scene of him slaughtering dozens of unidentified bad guys.
Some of the foes he faces are fearsome, but it does make for a sense that there's a difficulty level structure at work here, that he faces the hordes of goons before taking on ever-more dangerous super-baddies towards the end.
Of course the main selling point is the action, and much if it is astonishing; intense, imaginative and punishingly violent.
The skill, athleticism and power of Uwais really is something to behold, and that combined with the ferocity, audacity and fluidity of the fight choreography of Evans makes it the jaw-dropping spectacle it so frequently is.
But gone is the purity of that first tower, and Evans just isn't able to move the plot forward with efficiency, meaning the effect sometimes is not so much exhilarating as exhausting.
From time to time you'll be able to enjoy an action scene that's up there with the very best but (and you might need to say it quietly), for long stretches The Raid 2 can be really quite boring.
See it if you liked: The Raid, Metro Manila, Ong Bak
Calvary (15, 101 mins)
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a priest in a quiet Irish town who is told by someone in his confessional that he's going to kill him within a week for the abuse he suffered years before at the hands of someone in the church.
So we spend the next week with the Father conducting his duties and meeting the characters he encounters in the village, including Chris O'Dowd's butcher, M. Emmet Walsh's American writer and Dylan Moran's rich buffoon.
It's gentle, leisurely and often very funny, but laced with a dark cynicism, and as Father James ends up carrying the burdens of the whole town, the parallels are clear.
Gleeson is tremendous, perfectly suited to a black cassock and, in what could actually be seen as an unexpected development for this sort of movie, he's a good priest and a good man.
Calvary is not an anti-church movie, but it's also not afraid to raise hard questions regarding the relevance and future of the church, so there's certainly plenty to chew on too.
See it if you liked: The Guard, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths
The Quiet Ones (15, 98 mins)
Director: John Pogue
Hammer films continue their recent return (if not exactly resurgence) to horror movie productions with this monotonous throwback to their Dennis Wheatley occult days in the 70s, but with a big splash of modern found footage shenanigans thrown in.
The Quiet Ones is set at Oxford in 1974, where a university professor (Jared Harris) conducts experiments on a disturbed young girl who may be possessed, ostensibly to cure her, though he may be up to something more.
A cameraman (Sam Claflin) is taken on to document the research in a story inspired by actual events. Because of the documentation process, not only do we get to suffer through the usual home video footage, but in fact recreations of grainy 1970s camcorder footage, which has somehow managed to be captured with ear-splitting sound.
The period styling is far from convincing, just slightly dodgy hair and charity shop shirts, and as drama this is low on purpose, sense, characters or interest.
As horror it's deeply tedious, with lots of repetitive talk punctuated by loud bangs, making it one of the weakest examples of crash-bang possession horror in some time.
See it if you liked: The Last Exorcism, When the Lights Went Out, The Conjuring