Is it possible to over-murder somebody? Like after you've smashed their head into the wall six or seven times and then neck-stabbed them until their jugular looks like a frolicking fountain at the Bellagio and then shoved an exploding refrigerator in their direction, do you keep on murdering them just because it feels so great or do you move on to the next person you want to obliterate with another series of objects like a machete and a veggie juicer and an ACME anvil and a killdozer?
I have learned from watching this film that the answer to that question is yes, you can, indeed, mega-kill another human being and that it is the very best -- and also most exhausting -- thing you can do with your day. First, though, provided you're Indonesian, like the people in this movie, you should become versed in the martial art known as Pencak Silat. Doing so will help you subdue your workday's many victims -- in this movie's case, a brutal crimelord who sits in the grimy penthouse of a grimier apartment building, as well as that building's residents, a teeming human stew of lowlife scum, rapists, murderers and people who haven't gotten in quite enough Pencak Silat practice to avoid the deathblow about to be delivered unto their balls by an elite police squad.
Once the SWAT guys show up with their secret weapon, an athletic face-smashing-machine of a man (Iko Uwais, who'd better become a big huge jerk of a movie star thanks to this) the frenzy can commence. And it does. This is a splatter ballet, a symphony of flying bodies and breaking bones for machine guns and lower intestines composed by Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian Devil after eating a pound of cocaine apiece during a 10.5 earthquake.
Yeah, there's also a plot involving betrayals and honor and secrets and brotherhood, both among the bad and the good guys. And that's fine. But by the time that stuff rolls around, done well with a properly grave, enraged tone and effective emotional resonance, it just feels like director Gareth Huw Evans is showboating, effectively announcing, "Yes, I've blown your mind with all this spinal cord injury and splatter-fun, now look at how I just casually drop some real human moral heft and despair into the mix. FILMMAKING!"
But back to the point: you're really here for all the excessive murderings. And this is serious violence. Not even the sort of thing most R-rated action movies tease and then withhold. This is Capital V violence for action fans who've been conditioned to accept a less extreme version, who might not yet realize how much they crave and have been denied the crazy, ecstatic release of witnessing executions properly executed. It's also the kind of action movie that Asian countries seem to have no trouble delivering but that mainstream American studio releases shy away from in the pursuit of PG-13 box office. It's Die Hard times a million. On fire. It's rough, exhilarating, punishing, exhausting and glorious. It wants to take a hammer to your skull. And you should let it. It'll hurt like hell. And by that I mean it'll feel amazing.