1. The Raid: Redemption
Written and directed by Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Doni Alamsyah, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian
Welsh-born Gareth Evans brings one of the best-directed action/crime/martial arts movies of all time in his third film. The story itself is simple: A team of special force police officers in Jakarta are sent to a building to arrest the crime lord that owns it and rents apartments out to the seediest criminals in town. Once inside, the team is detected and the crime lord makes an offer over the building’s intercom — anyone that can kill the cops gets free rent for life. What follows is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride between good guys and bad guys featuring fast-paced Pencak Silat-style fight scenes. The story offers a few unexpected twists and turns, but it’s the level of danger and remarkable fight choreography that leaves you breathless.
2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Written by Ercan Kesel, Ebru Ceylan, N.B. Ceylan
Starring: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel
Oddly disturbing, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia follows a small-town doctor, police commissioner, and prosecutor as they search the countryside for the body of a murdered man. Accompanied by the confessed killer that can’t quite remember where the body was left, the three men become increasingly frustrated. As the night drags on, their seemingly idle chatter about mundane things masks a deeper change. This is one of those films that you keep asking yourself as you watch why you bought the ticket, but once it’s over, you can’t get it out of your head. The incredibly slow build up culminates in a truly haunting conclusion.
Directed by Oren Moverman
Written by James Ellroy
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Ned Beatty
I’m of the camp that you can’t go wrong with a screenplay by James Ellroy, and this film proves me right. Rampart follows the life of a corrupt LAPD cop Dave Brown, brilliantly played by Woody Harrelson against the backdrop of Los Angeles’ famous Rampart Division scandal in the 1999. Brown’s tactics are unethical at best as he struggles to make the city safer for those he deems deserving, and tries to bridge the gap between himself and a daughter who resents him. The film comes across as a character study of a power-hungry man weighed down by his own mistakes more than it ever really conveys the nuances of the scandal, but for what it is, it’s well done. There are moments where you pity Brown, admire him, and more often than not, hate him. But he’s real and he’s an animal facing extinction as his way of policing one of the most crime-ridden areas of L.A. is thrust under a microscope.