Among members of Indiewire's Criticwire network, "The Raid: Redemption" first started gathering steam when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. To date, Gareth Evans' tale of an Indonesian SWAT team that must take on a high-rise building teeming with dangerous criminals has inspired some of the most enthusiastic and effusive praise of the year. With an aggregate grade of A- from Criticwire members on the brink of its Friday release, it's the Criticwire Pick of the Week.
In his A+ review at Libertas, Joe Bendel says that "The Raid: Redemption" is "packed with carnage...an old school martial arts shootout, with genuine art-house credibility." Comingsoon.net’s Edward Douglas describes the film as "an action movie unlike anything we've seen, possibly since the original 'Die Hard,' as Evans proves he's the real deal with impressive visuals and fast-paced setpieces on par with Guy Ritchie, Park Chan-wook and Quentin Tarantino." After seeing the film in Park City, NextMovie’s Chase Whale simply told us, "Count me onboard the Holy-Shit-The-Raid-Is-Fucking-Incredible train." The general public can decide this weekend if all the acclaim is warranted.
"The Deep Blue Sea" is a film with significantly less stunt and weapons work, but one with its own share of emotional volatility. Based on the 1952 play by Terence Rattigan, the story follows a woman whose illicit affair with a winsome, yet troubled pilot leads her into a crippling depression, all set against the backdrop of 1950s London. It has received an aggregate grade of B+ from Criticwire members.
Tim Robey at the Daily Telegraph recognizes the film’s ability to act as a kind of inter-decade conversation between Rattigan’s work and the modern-day interpretation of filmmaker Terence Davies. "You could accuse Davies of indulgent touches here and there," Robey concedes, but he adds that "if the movie’s both gorgeous and stifling, that feels just right for Rattigan’s aching prison of a play." In her Cinema Blend dispatch from last year’s TIFF, Katey Rich praised the lead performance of Rachel Weisz, but was less taken with the overall film. "While this doomed love triangle is linked visually to the remnants of war destruction in the city, it never quite sticks as a theme,” she writes. “The movie is occasionally moving and very well-acted, but despite all the crying manages to feel slight."
"The Hunger Games" is not a conventional "independent" film, but we can't ignore the wave of positivity surrounding the latest literary adaptation-turned-blockbuster franchise. Yesterday, we highlighted the early acclaim, much of it centering around the film’s star, indie vet Jennifer Lawrence. That's likely one of the main reasons that "The Hunger Games" may avoid the big-budget adaptation death-blow that befell "John Carter" just a few weeks ago. It currently has a B+ average on Criticwire.
Abel Ferrara’s latest, "4:44 Last Day on Earth" investigates the mindset of a world facing annihilation and currently has a B- aggregate score on Criticwire. Eric Kohn wrote in his Indiewire review, “With a cryptic, meandering style, Ferrara presents his surprisingly understated apocalyptic vision as a therapeutic process." It's right at home in a weekend full of bleak movies.