The Raid 2 (2014)
Gareth Evans, Indonesia
Most people who've seen The Raid can probably recall their initial reaction to the movie. I don't think anyone was expecting to see a movie like this out of Indonesia, and for most people (myself included), it was probably their first foray into Indonesian cinema. And what made The Raid such an explosive experience for cinema goers is that it was a well made, well choreographed action movie on a TON of steroids. From the very first scene to the very last shot, this movie is full of energy and has fight scenes that twist you on a visceral level. Three years later, we got the sequel to this aforementioned masterpiece, and it was not nearly as well received as the first installation. The general reaction to The Raid 2 was that it was too slow, tried to be too serious, and simply not as good as the original. And you know what, the movie was slower and more serious, but that's something the sequel absolutely needed. A rehashing of the original's plot on a larger scale would have been fine, and perhaps better received by its core fan base, but this wouldn't have furthered the franchise (if I can even call it that) in any way. The fight scenes in The Raid were intense, but the emotional context surrounding each fight was pretty minimal. With The Raid 2, each of the major fight scenes almost feel operatic because the movie takes its time. The last fight in particular was so gut-wrenching that I was literally holding my breath towards the end, and felt equally as exhausted as Iko Uwais after the last punch was thrown (a huge exaggeration, I know, but just go with it). In all fairness, this movie was actually pretty well received overall, but I think it deserved a bit more credit than it actually got.