Movies: Apartment Anabasis Double Feature
Today's two films are inspired by Anabasis, the ancient Greek account of a mercenary army trapped thousands of miles in hostile territory. In each movie, a squad of police officers infilitrate a seedy apartment building in order to take down a criminal holed up inside. As with Xenophon's narrative, however, things don't go as planned, and soon the cops are caught in an all-out fight for survival...
In "The Horde," a group of Paris police officers go on an unsanctioned mission of revenge against a drug dealer. From the beginning, it's a daunting task - the dealer's in a derelict apartment complex and he's surrounded by well-armed associates. Add in a horde of ravenous zombies flooding the building from the ground floor, though, and you have the makings of a really bad day.
The story of "The Horde" reminds me a lot of "From Dusk Till Dawn," in that the first quarter is a straightforward cops-and-robbers action-thriller with few signs of the impending supernatural gorefest. When the characters realize what they're in for, the movie's tone shifts from realistic to manic (an old Vietnam vet cuts down zombies with a MAS AA-52, for heaven's sake). It's a little hard to follow and a little hard to swallow, but probably worth a watch for action and horror fans.
The Raid: Redemption
"The Raid: Redemption" is the kind of movie that doesn't do any favors for the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. In the film, a gangster named Tama has set up a safe house where the criminal underworld can reside with impunity. Let's pray that such places don't really exist in Indonesia, because when a special police unit tries to take down Tama, all hell breaks loose.
The first 45 minutes of the movie are expertly paced, with just the right amount of suspenseful buildup, desperate gun battles, and rock'em-sock'em pencak silat action. Director Gareth Evans gets a little obsessed with the martial arts sequences, though - the final third of the movie is little more than brutal hand-to-hand fights strung together with wisps of dialogue. Granted, the fights are interestingly shot and well-choreographed, but they aren't particularly fulfilling in a narrative sense. I'm hoping the rumored sequel will have a better story to match its bigger budget.