Everything that American directors do wrong in action movies, Gareth Huw Evans does right in this cop thriller. No rapid-fire cuts, no blurry camera work; what you see is what you get. And it's not just a cop movie — it's kind of a horror movie, too, the whole film reminiscent of the opening SWAT-team-in-a-housing-project sequence in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. And also a martial arts flick by way of a Hollywood musical, with fight sequences worthy of Jackie Chan that play out like extravagantly inventive dance numbers. But what it isn't? A film about redemption.
Okay, it does have a begrudging element of that old gangster movie cliché of. . . . Nevermind, that's one of the few twists in a film that otherwise has no more plot than a diabolically inventive video game. Rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) joins his SWAT team in a raid on a decrepit high rise to take out Tawa (Ray Sahetaphy, who resembles a jollier Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men), crime boss and landlord to every murderous lowlife in Jakarta, all eager to kill for free rent. Tawa's a sadist but he's funny, too, and one thing about Rama and the other good guys is that they don't have much of a sense of humor. Or rather, their wit is in how they use their fists and feet and whatever else comes to hand — a refrigerator, a fluorescent light bulb — to get the job done. It sure beats crappy editing and special effects.