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when someone's being particularly lifeless onscreen, do you think it's because of bad direction or bad acting?

Asked by
filmandfeels

Depends on the material, really. If the role calls for this kind of acting, it can work. For example, one of my favorite actors is Keanu Reeves. I’m not under the delusion that he’s a brilliant actor, but I happen to really enjoy many of his movies. Let’s say he isn’t known for his display of a wide range of emotions. Yet his sort of perpetually dazed expression works really well for a role like Neo in The Matrix trilogy. There’s something almost alien and otherworldly about the blankness of his expression that adds something interesting to the character. It worked for him a little bit on The Devil’s Advocate and Constantine, too. On the other hand, the same glassy-eyed expression does him no favors in films like Sweet November, The Lake House and Dracula, where the roles called for something slightly more dramatic. Since the audience is rarely privy to what direction an actor has received for a particular role, we often tend to blame bad acting more so than bad direction. One or the other is responsible, but more often than not it’s a combination of both.

THE RAID 2: BERANDAL (2014)
If you ever need to deliver a crazy beat down to a horde of attackers, Iko Uwais is the man for the job.
The 31-year-old Indonesian actor, whose team efforts with director Gareth Evans in 2009’s Merantau and 2011’s cult hit The Raid: Redemption, earned him some buzz in the action movie landscape, is no stranger to a knock-down drag-out brawl. He reprises his role from Redemption in The Raid 2: Berandal, where his character Rama emerges from one life-or-death scenario to another, seemingly in a span of mere hours. Uwais, who performs his own stunts, never ceases to amaze, enduring volley after volley of attacks from multiple opponents, something that he surely is used to by now. But Berandal is not just another run-of-the-mill action flick. Its story is grand, with characters that seem to have emerged right out of a Shakespearean play.
Berandal picks up right where Redemption leaves off, with Rama as one of two survivors of a bloody massacre in a dilapidated crime syndicate’s base. He is about to throw in the towel, deciding that a life of battling organized crime may not be for him, when a personal blow thrusts him back into the fray. This time, Rama has to go deep undercover to get to the root of Jakarta’s criminal underworld. And nothing is as close to the belly of the beast as befriending the son of the most feared crime lord in Indonesia. What ensues is a story that is clearly more elaborate and much more painstakingly crafted than its humble predecessor, but whose recurring themes of family and legacy forge an unmistakable bond between the two films.
The Raid 2: Berandal is unsurprisingly quite the action-packed affair, with sequences that are so mind-blowingly relentless that viewers can almost feel the heat from all the excitement emanating from the screen. Uwais bounces from one brawl to the next, doling out the signature grappling moves that make the martial arts of pencak silat so unique. Director Gareth Evans clearly takes advantage of a bigger budget, experimenting with more creative ways to film these fast-paced, hard-hitting sequences and squeezing the most drama out of numerous exposition shots. This is certainly one of the things that separates the sequel from the original; Evans takes his time telling the story of Berandal. Where Redemption throws the audience (and Rama) into the thick of the action from the moment the camera rolls, Berandal patiently unfolds, giving the film a very different look and feel. Colors bleed into the screen and shots are more stylized in this ambitious sequel. The result is an adrenaline-fueled opera set on a bigger stage and with more dramatic flair. Berandal feels like a classier, grown-up Redemption, and is a well-executed sequel overall.  
(possible spoilers after the cut)
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Redemption worked because its simplicity, along with the straightforwardness of its story, married well with the gritty, minimalistic, guerrilla-style filmmaking. In making Berandal, however, Evans didn’t simply attempt to repeat the successes of Redemption. It’s obvious from the start of the sequel that the director was aiming much higher, giving audiences more action and more drama, delivered in a moodier, more atmospheric style. Berandal's story is more complex, with a focus on a seemingly indestructible web of corruption that plagues the streets of Jakarta. It's still a story of family and legacy, which is really where the heart of the series lies, but it plays out on a bigger stage, featuring much more colorful characters. The ambitious Uco, heir to the throne of Jakarta's largest, most feared crime syndicate, is a familiar archetype, portrayed brilliantly and with an almost King Joffrey-like brattiness by Arifin Putra. Alex Abbad’s gloved and perpetually bespectacled Bejo brought a more flamboyant, very theatrical villain to the forefront. Finally, the formidable trio of The Assassin (played by Cecep Arif Rahman), Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) and Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) certainly gave Iko Uwais a very entertaining albeit grueling run for his money, much to the audience’s delight.
While Berandal's moody exposition shots were great to look at and gave the film an expensive, refined quality, there did seem to be more of an emphasis on style over substance. Nothing too glaring to a point of extreme detraction, but enough for viewers to notice a clear difference between Berandal and Redemption. Both films’ action scenes were absolutely riveting and relentless (especially the final onslaught between Rama and Bejo’s right hand assassin, which were filmed in such a way that left viewers undoubtedly exhausted from just watching), but the somewhat haphazard way Redemption was filmed made its fight sequences seem more spontaneous and organic compared to Berandal's slightly staged, off-kilter ones. Berandal's bigger budget and playground becomes most apparent in its car chases and multiple filming locations. It was a nice change from the monotony (and simplicity) of Redemption's multi-level apartment building. One thing that the film could have done without, however, was making the characters abruptly switch to speaking English in a scene between the Japanese and Indonesian crime lords. The purpose of the switch was understandable, however neither the written lines nor their manner of delivery weren't good enough to justify it. It only succeeded in taking the audience out of the film, coming off like it was trying a bit too hard.

Redemption, however, ultimately felt more personal than Berandal. The sibling rivalry in Redemption grounded the film, giving it some heart. In Berandal, Rama is fueled by rage, wanting to avenge his brother’s death, but as the story progresses, this almost takes a backseat to the big picture of taking down the crime lords. Whether this was intentional, leading audiences to conclude that Rama was able to set aside his personal vendetta for “the greater good”, or merely the result of crafting a more complicated drama is unclear. What Berandal did very well was use the bigger stage and extended time for storytelling to highlight the often gray area situations of deep cover agents and how, often, corruption occurs when people venture into the dark side despite their good intentions. The character of Rama benefits from this extended storyline, and became more developed as a result of a more drawn out series of events. Whereas in Redemption Rama is a bit of a boy scout, in Berandal he gets his hands dirty (literally, as represented in the very stylized and very muddy prison brawl), often doing things that he never dreamed he would do. He has to swallow a bitter pill in the sequel, realizing that the road to peace is paved with more than just a few atrocities. 
Yours Truly’s personal preference still lies with the original film, but overall, The Raid 2: Berandal is a solid sequel to Redemption. It features more of everything audiences loved about the original film - action, drama and excitement - but on steroids. The film may be more stylized and involve more characters and settings, but it retains the stacked action that made the original so entertaining. While it has less of an emotional pull than Redemption, its engaging visuals and carefully crafted storyline manage to draw the audience in nonetheless.

THE RAID 2: BERANDAL (2014)

If you ever need to deliver a crazy beat down to a horde of attackers, Iko Uwais is the man for the job.

The 31-year-old Indonesian actor, whose team efforts with director Gareth Evans in 2009’s Merantau and 2011’s cult hit The Raid: Redemption, earned him some buzz in the action movie landscape, is no stranger to a knock-down drag-out brawl. He reprises his role from Redemption in The Raid 2: Berandal, where his character Rama emerges from one life-or-death scenario to another, seemingly in a span of mere hours. Uwais, who performs his own stunts, never ceases to amaze, enduring volley after volley of attacks from multiple opponents, something that he surely is used to by now. But Berandal is not just another run-of-the-mill action flick. Its story is grand, with characters that seem to have emerged right out of a Shakespearean play.

Berandal picks up right where Redemption leaves off, with Rama as one of two survivors of a bloody massacre in a dilapidated crime syndicate’s base. He is about to throw in the towel, deciding that a life of battling organized crime may not be for him, when a personal blow thrusts him back into the fray. This time, Rama has to go deep undercover to get to the root of Jakarta’s criminal underworld. And nothing is as close to the belly of the beast as befriending the son of the most feared crime lord in Indonesia. What ensues is a story that is clearly more elaborate and much more painstakingly crafted than its humble predecessor, but whose recurring themes of family and legacy forge an unmistakable bond between the two films.

The Raid 2: Berandal is unsurprisingly quite the action-packed affair, with sequences that are so mind-blowingly relentless that viewers can almost feel the heat from all the excitement emanating from the screen. Uwais bounces from one brawl to the next, doling out the signature grappling moves that make the martial arts of pencak silat so unique. Director Gareth Evans clearly takes advantage of a bigger budget, experimenting with more creative ways to film these fast-paced, hard-hitting sequences and squeezing the most drama out of numerous exposition shots. This is certainly one of the things that separates the sequel from the original; Evans takes his time telling the story of Berandal. Where Redemption throws the audience (and Rama) into the thick of the action from the moment the camera rolls, Berandal patiently unfolds, giving the film a very different look and feel. Colors bleed into the screen and shots are more stylized in this ambitious sequel. The result is an adrenaline-fueled opera set on a bigger stage and with more dramatic flair. Berandal feels like a classier, grown-up Redemption, and is a well-executed sequel overall.  

(possible spoilers after the cut)

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