I've seen a number of excellent movies in the last couple of weeks.
First was the excellently fucked-up Old Boy (2003). I was put on to this Korean revenge movie most recently by discussion of the cinematography of the scene in which Oh Dae-Su, armed with a hammer, fights a crowd of goons in a hallway. That's a fantastic and memorable scene, one of many in the movie. It's a pretty intricate mystery with a brutal twist and a fascinating ending.
Next was the excellently fun District B13 (2004). This is essentially a French parkour movie with the amusing feature of a heavy handed and unnecessary commentary on democracy from the world's other oldest democracy. I now want to see a movie starring Vin Deisel and Cyril Raffaelli. They could call it Separated at Birth. But seriously, check out Raffaelli's stunt and choreography credits. His co-star, David Belle is the founder of parkour, so that's the main value in this movie. Other than the action, the dialogue is decent and there are some cool characters.
The Raid: Redemption (2011) recieved a limited release earlier this year (only three theatres in LA, for example), which was recently widened to include one of my local theatres. This saved me the cross-town trip that the buzz on this movie would have compelled me to take. This is the first Indonesian movie I've seen and it's set a high bar; It's pretty much the perfect action movie. There's no wasted space here; much of the characterisation and plot is conveyed with glaces between character, occasional lines of dialogue, and the action itself. The action scenes are dynamic and inventive including a homage to the Old Boy hallway scene mentioned above and a lengthy climatic fight between two heroes and a villain in a single bare room which remains exciting and interesting throughout despite the lack of props of scene furniture. If you like action movies, this is a must see. And watch out for Welsh director Gareth Evans in the future!
Finally, I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) on my flight back to NZ. Based on the John Le Carré novel of the same name, this is a masterful slow-burn spy thriller with a insanely good cast. Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy give fantastic performances. In a similar manner to The Raid, there's no wasted space in this film; every scene moves the mystery along exactly as much as it needs to to maintain a sense of progress, and ratchets up the tension as it does so. If you like gritty espionage thrillers, see this.