Pulling A Trigger Is Like Ordering A Takeout – The Raid

11 03 2015

The Raid (XYZ Films - 2011)

What is the best way to evict a block of flats full of criminals? You could simply serve an Eviction Notice and then have an Eviction Day where you remove those who reside inside it. Alternatively you could just get a swat team together of 20 cops or so and then evict the place room by room. This idea does sound a lot more promising given the circumstances of the residents; however this plan could also easily backfire, as shown in The Raid.

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Written and Directed by Gareth Evans; The Raid (or The Raid: Redemption as it is known in America) is an Indonesian Martial Arts Action Film which has to go down as one of the all-time greatest action movies in the history of cinema. To be honest I have only recently seen this film. I had heard of it before, but it was not until I saw The Raid 2 (my second Favourite Film of 2014) back in May that I wanted to and got round to seeing the first Raid film.

The film is set in the slums of Jakarta. Police officer Rama (Iko Uwais) is a member of a 20 strong swat team squad led by Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), Officer Bowo (Tegar Satrya) and Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno). Their mission is to raid a block of flats and capture crime lord Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy) who lets out his flats to criminals hoping to evade the authorities. His building is like a fortress and supposedly today’s mission is not the first time something like this has been done. Tama also has two lieutenants; one said to be like a Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and the other called Andi (Donny Alamsyah) who has control over him – and is also Rama’s brother. The swat team arrives and quickly gains access to the building. They briefly detain a man who is trying to deliver pills to his sick wife before proceeding to clear each floor and all of its residents one by one. Just as they clear the first few floors, the team is spotted by a young kid who manages to raise the alarm. Tama tells the buildings residents of the situation and calls a few people from around the area to prevent the team’s escape.

The team is then ambushed by the residents who kill a great number of them. Jaka learns from Wahyu that the operation has not been officially sanctioned; as such, no reinforcements will come to their aid as they do not know where they are. The remaining officers take refuge in an apartment where Rama creates an escape route by hacking away at the floor with an axe. Bowo gets injured in the chaos and Rama takes out a large number of residents by using the fridge as an explosive device. The team then splits up with Rama taking Bowo to safety and Jaka, Wahyu and Dagu (Eka ‘Piranha’ Rahmadia) go hide in a shower block. Tama meanwhile sends Mad Dog and Andi to go empty the dead resident’s coffers to pay for the buildings repair. Rama takes Bowo to the apartment of Gofar (Iang Darmawan); the man they detained earlier. He reluctantly hides them in a wall space. A machete gang then come looking but do not find them. Rama leaves Bowo to look for Jaka but then runs into the machete gang. He fights them off in an epic struggle only to find himself having to run away from another group. He is then found by Andi.

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Jaka meanwhile is cornered by Mad Dog. Wahyu and Dagu flee with Mad Dog challenging Jaka to a fight, which Mad Dog wins with ease. Rama tells Andi that he knew Andi was there and tries to convince him to come home, telling him that he is going to be an uncle to Rama’s son. Andi though decides to stay, but tells Rama to wait until the coast is clear. Mad Dog drags Jaka’s body back to Tama. Tama however spots Andi with Rama and Mad Dog turns on Andi and takes him prisoner. Rama meets up with Dagu and Wahyu and suggests they go after Tama to get safe passage out of the building.  They fight their way up the building, through a narcotics lab and to Tama’s room. Rama sees his brother being beaten up by Mad Dog and splits to help him out. Mad Dog releases Andi just so he can fight both brothers. Mad Dog gains the upper hand and is about to win until Andi stabs him in the neck weakening him enough to kill him.

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Wahyu meanwhile finds Tama but betrays Dagu by killing him. He takes Tama hostage, but Tama tells him he knew about the operation for several days and tells Wahyu that he has been betrayed by his higher-ups. Wahyu kills Tama, before he tries to kill himself, but runs out of bullets to do so. Andi gives Rama tape recordings of Tama taking bribes from corrupt cops to be used as evidence. Rama tries to convince Andi one more time to come home, but Andi tells him that while he can protect Rama in his world, Rama could not do the same for him. Andi uses his power over the residents to grant safe passage for Rama, an injured Bowo and a detained Wahyu out of the area.

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The Raid’s story and setting is actually quite simple, at least to begin with. The setting of a raid means there is plenty of moments for action as well as break points to explain story elements and delve into characters’ lives. The film’s setup in its first act-30 minutes is pretty much all done and the film gets going very quickly. The character development that takes place within this time is rather simple in itself without revealing too much and does not take too long to get to the core themes and setting of the film. The story does get a little more complicated as it goes along but it gives plenty of moments of reveals and questions answered so nothing goes unanswered by the film’s end while also leaving enough detail in to allow a future film. Iko Uwais character of Rama is brilliant setup and ready within the first 5 minutes and his character is explored a lot with in the first 30. Beginning with his personal life, his wife and expected child not only shows that he is in fact human instead of just being a cop. These scenes also give the audience reason to root for him as well as feel for him as he has something to live for, and as an audience member you want to see him survive what he is going through.

Iko Uwais

The Raid has a lot of really enjoyable primary and secondary characters. Sergeant Jaka is enjoyable from start to finish. While his character is of the hard-nosed leader of the operation along with Wahyu, he has a great deal of compassion for those under his charge. While from start to finish his hard-nosed outlook on the current situation is ever-present his caring side always blossoms. His death at the hands of Mad Dog is a compassionate note for the film as from start to finish he remains one of the film’s best characters.  Andi meanwhile is an interesting character. His position is an interesting contrast to that of Rama and being his brother adds a little of flavour to both characters and the situation. While Rama is obviously a good honest person trying to do his best, Andi is in a position of power within the Indonesian underground. Andi however does a moral level of humanity in him as he still cares for his brother and helps him leave, but also has a level of control of Mad Dog which prevents him doing something completely brutal. Mad Dog meanwhile is completely like his name sake. He rarely talks in the film at all but has a deep level of mistrust of Andi as well as a high level of respect of Tama. Mad Dog sort of sees the situation as an opportunity to do what he loves, which is that of fighting his way and killing people. Much like Jaka, Mad Dog is extremely enjoyable to watch, particularly during his fight sequences but also when he hardly does anything at all. He has a strong on-screen presence and adds a touch of flavor as well as conflict to the scenes he is in. His enjoyment for a fight also brings a lot of promise for the films huge amount of action and fight scenes.

Yayan Ruhian

Tama meanwhile is a very casual villain who does not appear to really lose his rag and is calm for most of the situation. It makes a nice change from criminals and gangsters constantly losing their rag and instead having a level of enjoyment and exuberance in what they do. Tama’s situation and presence also allows him to have an extra level of commitment to what he does as well as a level of enjoyment. Especially in the early moments when he calls for help, tells the residents his offer and takes in what the cost of repairing the place is. Gofar meanwhile is a nice example of what good honest folk are forced to do in a situation when they have next to little or no money at all. Gofar and his wife are forced to live in the terrible conditions of the flat they have chosen; however it is clear that they might not have an option. While the police’s outlook on the situation is that it is full of criminals, there is also their failure to understand what motive is behind people’s choices and that not everyone is a bad person. Gofar, though grumpy, does have a little bit of compassion for the police’s plight and does believe in the goodness of other people, particularly Rama, who he hides and looks after Bowo while Rama looks for the others.

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Wahyu meanwhile is a symbol for the corruption in the police and the desire to be one of the higher-ups and not necessarily a grunt, even though his look and age shows a modicum of respect his way, especially how Jaka initially feels towards him. Wahyu however is there to get his chance at the big time when in reality his actions are just going to bring bad news and disaster to him, both from the corrupted and the uncorrupted with in the police. While she may only get one scene, Rama’s wife (Fikha Effendi) does add a nice touch to the Rama character. Without the scene with her in it would have been harder to feel for Rama’s character. Her presence in the scene is one of caring too, but as the situation of the film is yet to be revealed, her ending shot reveals a level of sympathy for Rama but adds a question for the audience to think about before it is answered very shortly. Several of the film’s minor cops have a nice brief moment here and there, but one of the characters that of particular notice is the machete gang’s leader (Alfridus Godfred). He is a brutal killer and leader. When he searches Gofar’s apartment, his attitude in his language towards him is a brilliant scene. He is unrelenting and horrible and gives a savage depiction of a brutal killer. His on-screen presence is almost as if not as strong as that of Mad Dog. He is more of a mid-level boss character to the film, next up being Mad Dog but adds a level of spice to the action and human scenes but also adds a level of longevity to the film to allow it to continue without being too quick a film and increase tension and expectancy for the audience towards the film’s final moments.

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The Raid’s soundtrack is nicely composed by Mike Shinoda (though this is the soundtrack for The Raid: Redemption). It features many brilliant pieces for specific moments while also maintaining a similar theme in themselves and to the film’s situational theme. The opening piece for instance starts with a more peaceful harmonious note than to its ending which brings a level of severity to the situation and prepares the audience for what is about to begin. The film’s soundtrack in general is quite similar to one another but helps to ramp up the tension but also give a level of background activity to the situation and help to place it. A few that really stood out for me include the opening serious drumming beat, and the moment where Tama calls in help from the neighbours.

It has a lot of similarity to the films credits score. The credit’s score itself starts off rather peaceful as it begins when the violence is all over. It then builds to a point and as the film truly ends, it leaves on a high note of acceptance and relief as the situation is over, even if the future is uncertain. The film’s soundtrack altogether is rather enjoyable and well worth a definite listen out for.

The film’s action moments though are quite easily its most enjoyable and stand out feature. The level of violence is at the level of extreme at its lowest point. The level of extreme violence though plus the effects of what this violence does to the characters, including their injuries is something of a necessity as it makes this film really stand out from the start. The level of violence also makes the film incredibly realistic and shows a high level of detail in the film’s choreography, and make up. It also gives the films characters an extra level of detail in the Martial Art of Pencak Silat which is on show and choreographed by the film’s stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian. While to the casual observer the violence could look unnecessary, over the top and uncalled for, the martial arts on show as well as the result of the films violent actions give it that extra level of detail that makes this film truly stand out. Alongside this violence includes terrific use of weapons and moments including the jump out of the window, the machete through the wall and every fight scene featuring Ruhian and Uwais. Alongside this though there are some other brilliant scenes that do not rely on violence including the early shots of the Jakarta slums and the rain pouring down on the van.

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The Raid is altogether one fantastic film. It’s level of violence and action could be a turn off for many a movie goer, but it’s more than just huge amounts of violence. It’s a film with a great level of emotion and drama in a simple but detailed and interesting story delivered by the films terrific cast. The setting is rather simple and so is the story but still maintaining enough mystery too adds twists and turns. The films characters are all terrific in their own spotlights with plenty of showcased reasons to cheer and root for them as well as boo them and enjoy their brutal ends. The soundtrack is a fitting choice for the film and has been well crafted and composed. The level of violence is at the high point of realism and one that any film made since The Raid is going to struggle to replicate and provide. It’s an all-round great film with each point delivering as well as backing up each other point too. The Raid is a truly brilliant action film that is definitely worth a watch for both fans of action movies as well as unseasoned action movie goers. While its level of violence will undoubtedly put many people off, but for those who are willing to stomach it, are in for a real treat.

GENEPOOL





Batman Begins – A Bite Size Film Review

5 02 2015

Batman Begins (Legendary Pictures - 2005)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer (Batman and characters created by Bob Kane).

Cast: Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary OldmanCillian Murphy, with Ken Watanabe and Liam Neeson.

Composer: James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer

Cinematography: Wally Pfister

Studio: Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, and Syncopy Inc.

Best Line: “It’s Not Who I Am Underneath, But What I Do That Defines Me.”

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After suffering the loss of his parents during his youth; Bruce Wayne dons the cape and mask to become the legendary caped crusader Batman, as he attempts to save Gotham City from the criminal underworld it is built on, as well as those around him. Set in a realistic setting other than a comic book world, Batman Begins is an interesting film as it becomes more of a crime/action film than a Superhero film. The film is beautifully produced. Gotham City looks gives the impression of a dying criminal city with very few things to appreciate in it. The action scenes, particularly the end train chase and mid car chase are spectacularly done and impressive to watch.

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The films cast are a brilliant selection and easily dive into their specified roles and are very believable but also easy to connect with. The emotional devices of Wayne’s love for Rachel, as well as the emotion he feels after his parent’s death and how this changes them can be felt on a high level even if it is more an action film than a drama. The film’s soundtrack is one of its most standout features. A nice mix of emotional pieces and action pieces, particularly the train chase at the end are used to raise tension to great effect. The film’s main theme is the main attraction as it is easily recognisable but also surprisingly catchy. Altogether Batman Begins is an enjoyable film and a definite must see.

GENEPOOL





He Makes The Weapons, I Use Them – Blade

27 08 2014

Blade 1998 2

Since about 2007 when I watched Blade: The Series on the now defunct UK channel Bravo, I have had a long and fascinated interest in the Marvel Comics character Blade, however it is the kind of interest that doesn’t involve reading the comics as I would have no idea where to start. My interest though has always been on-going. I like the idea of him; I like the badass actions and look of him as well as his more lone wolf nature. He is all round a fantastic character. The kind of guy who would go into a situation without any planning and armed to the teeth with weapons and would make his presence known either silently or more likely by punching the first guy he sees. Despite this interest though, the one thing that has eluded me are the films. I have not had much opportunity to watch them as they are not shown on television all that often and for several years the only one I had been able to see was Blade Trinity, until very recently.

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Released in 1998 and directed by Stephen Norrington, the film follows the on-going battle between Humans and Vampires from the perspective of the title character. The film begins in a flashback dating 1967 where a pregnant woman who is bleeding from the neck dies as her son is delivered by C-Section. Flash-forward to a modern underground day party scene where a seemingly ordinary young man is taken to, but gets treated very differently before being drenched in blood and attacked by the party goers who turn out to be Vampires. When trying to escape he encounters a man dressed head to toe in leather and covered in a lot of shiny things, all the vampires begin to separate upon realising who it is and call him Blade (Wesley Snipes). They attack him, but are quickly dispatched by this strange new man who possess a strong array of weapons as well as athleticism and strength fighting another vampire named Quinn (Donal Logue) before setting him on fire. Blade leaves the area as the police arrive and the charred remains of Quinn arrive at a city morgue. At the morgue Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) is shown a blood sample from the body, goes down to inspect it and is then attacked by the seemingly dead person who bites her throat. Blade arrives to finish him off but is attacked by the hospital Guards. He takes Karen away from the building and takes her to his hideout where his mentor and weapon smith Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) states that Blade should have killed her and injects her with Garlic.

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In a board room, a group of vampires are discussing the problems that Blade is giving them before calling upon a vampire named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) who is stirring up trouble within the ranks. Karen wakes up and discovers Whistler injecting Blade with a Serum. She tries to escape but is confronted by Whistler and Blade. They let her go but she is told to get out of the city as soon as possible. On her way back to her apartment, she is attacked by a Cop but is rescued by Blade. She stays with Blade wanting to know what is going on and crash a Vampire Club. Blade and Karen discover some articles and documents which show that Frost is looking for something. They are then both attacked by a healing Quinn and his men. With some help from Whistler, they manage to escape. Karen is informed by Whistler that Blade is a Vampire, but not like the rest. He is a Daywalker, a vampire hybrid who can walk around in sunlight. He shares all their strengths, and none of their weaknesses except the thirst. He therefore uses a serum to survive, but his body has begun to reject it and needs a new one. Out on a beach somewhere, Frost, Quinn and Frost’s supposed lover Mercury (Arly Jover) kill vampire elder Gitano Dragonetti (Udo Kier) by exposing him to sunlight.

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Back at the hideout Blade shows Whistler a segment of ancient Vampire Texts which Frost was looking for which says something by an ancient Bloodgod called La Magra. Karen discovers she is slowly turning into a vampire and creates a cure for herself. She also discovers that the anticoagulant EDTA causes Vampire Blood to explode. Blade encounters Frost during the day that has covered his skin in Sun Cream to avoid the exposure to sunlight. He offers Blade a truce but Blade refuses it. Frost’s men then invade the hideout injuring Whistler and taking Karen prisoner. Blade finds Whistler and gives him his gun so Whistler can kill himself. Blade attacks Frost’s men before discovering Vanessa (Sanaa Lathan), his mother. She says that Frost was the one who bit her. Blade is then captured.

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Blade and Karen are taken to an underground temple called the Temple of Eternal Night. There, Frost plans to turn himself into the Bloodgod. They trap Blade who is now weak after thirteen hours without his serum into a sarcophagus which drains him of his blood. Karen is put down a hole where her ex-colleague (Tim Guinee) has become an animalistic Vampire, and Mercury sets out the other Vampire Leaders in a circle formation underneath the room the sarcophagus is in. Karen escapes from the pit and rescues Blade who is dying, she feeds him her blood which give Blade the animalistic strength to fight the Vampires. Frost, through the sacrifice becomes La Magra. Bade kills Vanessa before wiping out Frost’s Men. Karen manages to get a shotgun and kills Mercury with a vampire spray Whistler gave her earlier. Blade encounters Frost who has seemingly become invincible thanks to his new powers, but Blade uses the EDTA to cause Frost to explode. Blade and Karen leave the temple and Blade asks her to create him a new Serum. The film then finishes with Blade dealing with a vampire in Moscow.

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Blade is unlike other Superhero or Comic Book films as in the character is more of a vigilante possibly on par with anti-hero, sort of like Snake Plissken. But because it’s not your ordinary run of the mill comic book movie and more of a realistic action movie (all be it with vampires), it makes the film more appealing to other audiences instead of just the comic book goers and as a result is able to reach a more widespread audience but does not contradict or contravene the main character. Blade is still Blade but the setting is made out to be more in times with the modern world and as such connects more with the audience instead of a setting that would need more explaining for the audience to understand.

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The films main cast is sort of made of on and off characters; hit and misses, some which could have had more time on-screen and others who are just that little bit annoying. Quinn plays the part of a henchman who thinks of himself as being quite cool but is actually the modern fool (tongue twister) and find his constant appearances rather annoying and find it rather pleasing that he is the first to be killed by Blade in the Final Fight. I don’t think Udo Kier gets enough time on-screen as his character needs more initial explaining along with his actual place in both the world and film. Racquel (Traci Lords) is supposedly given a main role but only really appears in the first act and is hardly seen again, if at all, Pearl (Eric Edwards) the librarian is very grotesque but the identity of the creature is not shown and you are at a loss trying to understand what it is, Officer Krieger (Kevin Patrick Walls); the cop familiar that attacks Karen, is a rotter at best, but his place in the film is not really needed other than for Karen to begin working with Blade, It is sort of bit coincidental and predictable that Karen runs into her ex-colleague, and Vanessa; Blade’s Mother now vampire has no real proper on-screen time for the shock to Blade become really apparent nor the mystery of where she has been all these years and her character is all round pointless except for maybe Frost having a tool to capture Blade with.

Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Traci Lords, Tim Guinee, Eric Edwards and Sanaa Lathan

Despite this though the film has some really good cast. Stephen Dorff is a real rotten character. He is obviously the main film’s villain but instead of being the over the top Dracula or Darth Vader type, he is the casual party goer who enjoys women and drinking. His persona as a right rotter and an egotistical maniac is played well (even if his accent makes him sound like Denis Leary in Demolition Man) and thinks very much about himself and his plans and has that want to be the top dog despite his position in the vampire world. He is however a very clever person also and obviously knows what he is doing and it’s only through those who work for him and the threat of Blade that they fail to work out. I do feel that N’Bushe Wright is somewhat out-of-place in this film. She plays the part of the unsuspecting public and as such the audience connection and introduction to the film, but I partly feel that she was chosen more to be in a glamour role or a possible love interest to Blade instead of the unbelieving witness and doctor role that her character is seemingly supposed to be. However despite that though, she is a very good character. The way she looks, acts and dresses is enough for Blade not to feel out-of-place with him covered in leather, and she wearing a trench coat like leather jacket. She is also very no-nonsense much like Blade and the way her character changes from unsuspecting witness to the films secondary hero makes her fit right into place especially with Blade showing a level of respect and trust in her at the very end of the film. Kris Kristofferson is the perfect associate/partner for Blade as in he is a lot like him and they both talk to each other in the same manner and form. He is also a lot like a father figure for Blade and shows a lot of care for him, treating him and giving him his serum as a result, but he is also very much a teacher and while he is as badass as Blade, his outer exterior and persona is that of a more calming position with everyone and is less likely to start a fight as a result and is more the talking kind.

Stephen Dorff, N'Bushe Wright and Kris Kristofferson

I am really drawn to the character of Mercury. I don’t think she gets the on-screen time that she deserves. She is in some respects the female version of Blade towards the end wielding his sword, but she is also a lot like Frost in character but gives a high level of blood lust in her role and as such is more of a warrior and animal in her nature, but her main exterior and persona works in tandem well with Frost which allows the two to have a real connection that is also realistic. While it is almost half-way into the film before she makes a proper appearance and becomes part of the main cast, her part is very enjoyable throughout and while Blade has Karen as his sort of assistant, Mercury is the opposite to this, but starts of bad and remains that way.

Arly Jover

The real star though is of course Wesley Snipes in the title role. Wesley Snipes in many respects is Blade; he is not playing it rather than actually being him. He shows no real emotion and is single-minded on the main task. Even when Whistler dies he just walks away and keeps his mind on the main task in hand. He does show some redeeming feature of this though when talking about his mother and the life he could have had, but he represents this through anger possibly showing that he has moved on from this, but it still plays on his mind. Blade’s athleticism and martial Arts skill and strength work very much in tandem with Snipes own personal Martial Arts training in Shotokan Karate and Hapkido. His use of his weapons is very much in the up close and personal style with him preferring to use his own body and weapons such as his sword which need him to be more close to the target. He still however still uses his firearms in a big way but also uses more traditional methods of armed combat with such tools as his Glaive and Sword more frequently instead of firearms. His connection to the vampire world is of course explored for the benefit of the audience but the film does not waffle on these points and instead explains these points in relatively short terms.

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The film’s soundtrack mostly comprises of hip hop, and electro music but has parts in it where the soundtrack is more mysterious to allow some tension for the scene exploring Blade as well as moments of fighting and explanation so that the right feel of tension and thrills can be given.

Blade though is at essence an Action Film, and with action comes violence, and Blade is a very Violent Film. The film though I wouldn’t consider as blood thirsty. There is a lot of blood in the film with scenes of body popping and explosions which in turn creates blood splatter, but generally it is not a film that thrives on it and uses Blood more for the showing of how violent the film is. I like to think of it more in relation to The Raid. It is very action packed and graphical in its violence (but not as much as how detailed The Raid was) but the violence is necessary for the action to work as the action comes from the characters, not the world around them. The film though is rather grotesque with moments of really disgusting things happening and disgusting creatures with the most disgusting scene happening at the end with the death of Frost. And on top of that you have more unnerving scenes such as the moment when Quinn arrives burned in the morgue.

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Blade is all together an extremely enjoyable action movie which while being a comic book/super hero movie, does more than that and instead of being goofy or silly in its design (like Batman Forever) does a really terrific job of setting itself in the real world allowing the audience to connect and understand it more without large pieces of explanation required. The film’s cast is a mixed bunch, but those who play their parts well are thoroughly enjoyable and while there is a lot of blood and unnerving/disgusting scenes, this does not stop the film from being enjoyable and in respects gives it the supernatural look the film is trying to represent. Altogether, thoroughly brilliant and it will make you thirst for more, much like it has for me.

GENEPOOL








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