The Raid 2 (and the Top 10 martial arts films)
Coming next week on DVD, The Raid 2 is the second of the Indonesian martial arts films in the series to be directed by Gareth Evans, and his third collaboration with actor Iko Uwais. The first film was a box office hit, taking over $9million worldwide; a very healthy return for a film with an extremely modest $1.1million budget.
For the sequel, Uwais reprises his role as SWAT member Rama. When Rama's brother is killed by the gang lord Bejo (Alex Abbad), he is persuaded by a man he meets named Bunawar (Cok Simbara) to join an anti-corruption unit that seeks to expose the activities of a corrupt police commissioner, Reza (Roy Marten), who they believe is double dealing with two rival gangs, the Bangun crime family and the Goto gang.
Going undercover under the name 'Yuda', Rama is installed in a prison, where he saves the life of Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo), the family's head honcho, during a riot. Meanwhile the gangster's son Uco (Arifin Putra) is becoming increasingly impatient with his father's lack of respect for him and hatches a plan with Bejo to engineer a war between the two gangs.
Rama, who has been hired by Bangun as thanks for saving his life, is caught up in the gangs' battles and is left severely beaten, but when Uco betrays his father and reveals his association with Bejo, Rama is presented with an opportunity to exact revenge for his brother's murder.
Evans has really been creating a name for himself as a director in recent years and with The Raid 2 he carries the job out brilliantly. As with many martial arts films the plot is a little on the thin side, but the brilliantly choreographed and beautifully shot fight scenes are pretty spectacular and fans of the genre will find plenty to enjoy about this film.
You'll be able to get your hands on it from Monday August 11, but in the meantime here are ten of our favourites martial arts flicks to keep you occupied. Don't try this stuff at home, kids...
The Raid 2: Official Trailer #1
10. Once Upon A Time in China
Jet Li has done his best to take on Bruce Lee's mantle of bringing martial arts films to Western cinema-goers and while some of his efforts have been a little disappointing – The One springs to mind – when he's on point, his films can be very good indeed. Two such examples are Hero and this 1991 film from director Hark Tsui.
Li plays the legendary kung-fu master Wong-Fei Hung and the film details the story of his stance against the armies of England, France and the United States in protest at their plundering of China's natural resources. Tsui is well-known among hardcore kung-fu flick fans and he was at the peak of his powers when he made this film, plus a great performance from Li has helped cement Once Upon A Time In China's reputation as a cult classic.
9. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
A classic from 1978 directed by Chia-Liang Liu, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin stars Chia-Hui Liu as a member of an anti-Qing gang who set disguise themselves as school teachers at a base in the Canton province.
When they are viciously attacked by the Manchu's and all but wiped out, he escapes and puts himself through a rigorous training programme in order to master the art of kung-fu, before taking on the Manchus and getting his revenge. A classic from Hong Kong's golden era of filmmaking, this is one of the all-time greats.
8. Police Story
You can't really have a martial arts Top 10 without including one of the many films by Jackie Chan, and with such a huge catalogue to choose from picking just one wasn't easy. We could have said either of the Drunken Master films or even Who Am I?, but in the end we had to choose Police Story, largely on the back of the scene in which Chan's character speeds through town on a bus battling enemies all the way.
Jackie Chan's real strength has always been his stunts and his fight choreography; he has developed his own style in which everything and anything around him can be used as a weapon, and the fight sequences are nothing short of spectacular. A must-watch for any hardcore kung-fu fan.
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Although many found the special effects-aided fights in this film a little too fantastical, there's no getting away from the fact that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a huge hit and brought the martial arts genre to a new and substantial audience.
Ang Lee's film, set in China during the Quing Dynasty era, is a mixture of straight-up martial arts and fantasy, mixing in elements of Chinese mythology and depicting a world filled with spirits and gods, detailing a story filled with love, revenge and, most of all, fighting. Put simply, it's a visually stunning feast that shouldn't be missed by any martial arts fan.
6. Ip Man
Originally titled 'Yip Man' after the man by whose life this film was inspired, Wilson Yip's film is a fictionalised account of the life of Yip Man, the first kung-fu master to teach the style of Wing Chun, which Bruce Lee fans may know as his original fighting style of choice before developing Jeet Kune Do.
The film features a brilliant performance from Donnie Yen in the lead role, who finds himself the subject of repeated challenges from other martial arts masters seeking to improve their reputations by fighting him. Slick, brilliantly shot and full of action-packed fight scenes, it's a modern classic that's up there with the best of them.
5. Ong Bak
Perhaps one of the finest martial arts films of the modern era, Ong Bak has rapidly established itself as a classic. Directed by Prachya Pinkaew, the film takes its name from a scared statue that is stolen from a village by a businessman who is looking to sell the artefact to some shady crooks in Bangkok to make himself a tidy profit.
Tony Jaa plays the role of Panom Yeerum, a village resident with more than a few fighting skills, and the film follows his quest to travel to Bangkok and retrieve the statue. Featuring some incredible Muay Thai skills from Jaa, this film is an absorbing thrill ride with some fantastic battles and some beautiful cinematography that any martial arts fan is sure to get a kick out of…
Kill Bill Vol. 1
Quentin Tarantino's homage to the martial arts genre received some mixed reviews when it was released, but Vol.1 in particular features some lovingly assembled fight sequences as well as a great storyline. A particular highlight is the scene at O-ren-Ishii's bar during which Uma Thurman's character Beatrix Kiddo takes on O-ren's personal gang of Yakuza bodyguards, The Crazy 88.
Also featuring the considerable fighting abilities of Gordon Liu - who appears as both the Crazy 88's leader and Kiddo's cruel, sadistic tutor, the White Lotus clan's Pei Mei – the film is extremely well cast, featuring brilliant performances from David Carradine, Lucy Liu and Daryl Hannah among others. The purists may not be fans of Tarantino's film, but it's still one of our favourites.
3. Kung Fu Hustle
Stephen Chow's film offers something a little different to others on this list, being a kind of parody of the martial arts genre – particularly the overblown special effects utilised in fight sequences for films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
But as well as being very funny, the film has a great storyline and features great performances across the board from a cast that includes Kwok-Kwan Chan and the brilliant double act of Wah Yuen and Qui Yuen as the married landlords of the Canton slum village in which much of the film is set. A huge crossover hit for Stephen Chow, this film is a must-see, we can't recommend it highly enough.
2. The Chinese Connection (Fist of Fury)
Originally named Fist of Fury, but released for Western audiences as The Chinese Connection, this film is probably the finest Bruce Lee ever made during his years working out of the studios of Hong Kong and is still revered as a classic among martial arts fans.
Lee stars as Chen Zhen, a student who returns to the international compound where he lives to discover his teacher has been murdered. Embarking on a mission to bring the murderers to justice, Chen kicks, punches and battles his way through against the Japanese inhabitants of the compound before exacting revenge on the killers. Featuring Bruce Lee at his sparkling, brilliant best, it's a well-established classic.
1. Enter the Dragon
Bruce Lee's first and, sadly, final Hollywood film, following his tragic demise during the filming of Game of Death, Enter the Dragon still stands up as a classic today and has probably done more to bring the genre to Western audiences than any other. Featuring some legendary fight scenes, a solid plot and some very stylish cinematography – not to mention Lalo Schifrin's iconic soundtrack – Enter the Dragon remains one of the finest examples of a Western-made martial arts movie and turned Bruce Lee into a proper box office superstar.