Stiq Flicks – from film and video game industry freelance writer Kevin Kelly – examines video games and attempts to pair them with matching films. It's like wine and cheese, but with more aliens.
The newly patched release ofPersona 4 Arena has emerged from the tunnel of video games to steam past us with whistles and bells, heralding the fact that the holiday game onslaught is nearly upon us. In Persona 4 Arena – an RPG series transformed into a fighter – you have different characters battling it out in a televised tournament. There's a story in there somewhere that fans will appreciate, but the Persona games have a history that needs a Ken Burns documentary series to explain. Suffice it to say: despite the genre shift, there's still a lot of fighting going on.
But Persona 4 Arena is about chaotic battles with avatars doing your dirty work for you, so we're pairing this with the dirty and gritty fistfights from the excellent The Raid: Redemption. If this movie doesn't inspire you to work out, or at least punch someone, then you might need to check your pulse. (Please don't punch each other – Ed.)
You may not know the name Iko Uwais, but you won't be able to forget it after you've seen the Indonesian actor and martial arts master in The Raid: Redemption or 2009's Merentau – both directed by Welsh director Gareth Evans. Evans discovered Uwais when he was working on a documentary about Pencak Silat, the style of martial art native to Indonesia. Evans visited the school that Uwais was training at, and shortly afterwards signed him to a contract, allowing him to quit his job as a driver for a telephone service.
Evans and Uwais collaborated on Merantau, introducing the Minang Tiger style of Silat, part of the heritage and traditions of the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesians. The film was well received at genre film festival across the country, including Fantastic Fest in Texas and ActionFest in North Carolina. Critically hailed as well, Merantau not only shone a spotlight on Uwais, but on Indonesia as well, and bringing back the art of gritty action films. So out of the success of Merentau rose the towering epic that is The Raid: Redemption.
In this film, a group of 20 elite cops have been sent to root out an criminal kingpin who has set up a headquarters on the top floor of a building in a residential neighborhood. Between the cops and their target stands 29 floors of normal residents living their daily lives. But when they enter the building, the gangster uses the building's PA system to promise great rewards to those who take out the cops. Which turns the tables and makes them the target inside a gigantic trap.
While the movie is relatively thin on plot (Uwais' police officer has a pregnant wife at home that he longs to return to), it makes up for that in dirty, powerful, relentless action. These are the types of films that Hollywood doesn't make anymore, unless you count the geriatric (yet still formidable) cast of The Expendables 2. Uwais' devotion to the art of Silat – and you have to call it art after seeing some of these fight sequences – is beyond impressive, and the movie bombards you with action sequences and fight scenes until you're exhausted by the time the credits roll. Evans himself calls the film survival horror, and who are we to argue?
While this film has currently been optioned for a remake with a budget that is much larger than the original, the time is ripe for a video game version. Granted, we aren't fond of Hollywood's penchant for remaking every film, but we would stand behind this one if a proper developer translated this into something you can experience via analog sticks. An epic, non-stop game where you have to fight your way to the top floor, experiencing story points along the way? Sign us up.
Evans and Uwais have teamed up again and are currently working on Berandal, which will serve as a prequel to The Raid: Redemption, and Evans has said he eventually wants to make a trilogy of these films. If he can match the non-stop intensity of The Raid while keeping Uwais front and center, we'll be in the front row with a ticket on opening night.
Where You Can Watch The Raid: Redemption There are multiple ways you can watch The Raid: Redemption right now, including the Xbox Live Video Marketplace, the PlayStation Store, Amazon, and other locations around the web. You can also catch Merentau, Evans' first feature with Uwais, on Netflix Instant Watch. Encouraging you to make it a double feature might take you away from games for too long, but you can't go wrong with a group of films and a brace of Silat movies.
The Raid: Redemption will also hit Blu-ray on August 14, and it comes with a wealth of special features that make this more than worth picking up this way. Director Gareth Evans contributes a commentary track that has him opening up about the complete process of directing this film, which he also wrote. But while we love this version, it's something of a puzzler. The disc includes features like Claycat's The Raid, which is the movie remade with claymation ... cats. Yet no interview with star Iko Uwais? That's a crime right now. Point us towards the building that houses Sony Pictures on the top floor, and we'll start climbing the stairs.
Check out the world of Indonesian action and martial arts. While it's no Persona, we think you'll enjoy the experience.
Kevin Kelly is a writer and pop culture junkie with a fixation on video games, movies, and board games. His writing has been seen at Moviefone, io9, Film School Rejects, TechRadar, Wizard World, G4, and The Austin Chronicle. He lives in Los Angeles and does not know how to surf. Follow him on Twitter @kevinkelly.