Directed by: Gareth Evans. Normally, I wouldn’t dream of seeing a sequel when I hadn’t seen the original, but this one had a big rep, and the library didn’t have the first one on the day I came. I’m drawn into this world of huge stakes, next-level martial arts films that are influenced by American crime movies and action movies, and this movie scratched all of those itches. This movie has a labyrinthine plot—not a dumb guy action movie—that was actually hard to follow, I had to keep on my toes to keep up with everything going on, all the huge cast of characters. And sometimes that can be dense and boring and lose me, here it really works, and I was really engaged in this dense, complicated world. Even with that huge cast, the characterization is filled in enough (for an action movie) that you still deeply care about what’s happening. Also, this movie has that dark, sharp look and feel, perhaps laid down by David Fincher movies, but either way, it’s a great pairing with this extremely dark, fast-paced criminal underworld that the movie is set in. And the martial arts stuff—that lead Iko Uwais is completely amazing! If you’re into impressive choreography and insane stunts, then this is the best kind of action movie. It’s got guns, cars, intense martial arts scenes, and it’s overall a brutally violent film. I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that Hollywood is trailing behind in many regards, that different international cinemas are doing really interesting, vibrant things to different genres, sometimes in traditions laid down by Hollywood in past years, but that Hollywood is getting complacent and boring and needs to look around for inspiration. When it comes to action movies, this film really confirmed this for me. In Hollywood, there hasn’t been much of a contribution to action film since the heyday of the 80’s and 90’s. For the last 20 years, it’s been superhero movies, it’s been insane CGI apocalypse after insane CGI apocalypse, and the odd surprising curveball like Drive or something. But overall, if you’re a regular meathead dude who just wants a cynical, dark, super violent, visually incredible action movie, my advice is to look East! I’d never seen any Indonesian film before, and about the only thing I knew about Indonesia was what I saw in The Act of Killing (not very flattering). I mean holy shit—that prison yard fight scene in the mud is one of the most exciting action scenes I’ve seen in a movie since Choi Min-sik taking on all those guys with a hammer in Oldboy. I’m very interested to see what else this entire half of the world is doing, especially when it comes to this genre.