Lean, fast-moving, and filled with brutally beautiful (or beautifully brutal) game-changing fight sequences, Gareth Evans' Indonesian martial-arts film lives up to its viral hype. Rama (Iko Uwais) is a rookie member of an elite special-forces team that has been sent to rid a decrepit 15-story high-rise of its vicious crime lord and the small army of socio- and psychopaths who do his bidding. Nothing is quite as it seems, of course, as the covert mission turns out to have murky political goals, and Rama's connection to one of the crime lord's major henchmen threatens to derail the whole undertaking. That the viewer will be able to guess many plot twists and story revelations in advance is beside the point. Evans slavishly adheres to genre template even as he tweaks it. So we are introduced to Rama as he kneels on a prayer mat, immediately cuing us that he's a truly wholesome hero. Before he embarks on his deadly task, he kisses the round belly of his beautiful pregnant wife. But Evans doesn't play these moments for the cheap ironic laughter of American films—straightforward sincerity is part of what makes the whole thing work, not to mention the sharply choreographed fight scenes that leave the viewer both breathless and squirming.
Yes, there will be machetes (with Alfridus Godfred pictured).
Opens Fri., March 30 at Lincoln Square, Metro, and Pacific Place. Rated R. 100 minutes.