There's a nice quote in Blockbuster, Tom Shone's book about Hollywood movies:
'I was ten when Star Wars came out. It first appeared on my radar in the form of some publicity stills, which appeared in a British comic called 2000 A.D., and which caused me to adopt a posture closely modeled on that of a pointer dog who has just caught wind of his first pheasant - a position I held until my parents caved in and took me up to London to see the thing.'
IAnthony Lane wrote something similar about what he felt when he first heard that Speed was about a bus with a bomb on board that would explode if its speed dropped below fifty miles an hour.
And I had much the same reaction when, a few months ago, I read on some movie site about a new film made by a young, unknown Welsh director in Indonesia - in Indonesian. A group of armed policemen enter a huge building to arrest the criminal kingpin who lives on the top floor. But it all goes wrong, the psychopathic inhabitants turn on them and they have to fight their way up, floor by floor. Using a special spectacular Indonesian martial art.
I immediately contacted my two brothers and last night we went to see The Raid. Blimey. I think it's probably the best action film since Die Hard in 1988, and it makes Die Hard look like a Merchant-Ivory production. It was an extremely cheap production and, so far as I could tell, there is not a single computer-generated image in the whole movie, but it has some of the most extraordinary, kinetic action sequences I've ever seen. There were a couple of scenes that actually ended with the cinema audience cheering. It was like being part of a mob. In a good way.
The film has good taste about where to borrow from: John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, Walter Hill's The Warriors and Southern Comfort, John McTiernan's Die Hard and Predator, and the Honk Kong movies of John Woo. Great films all.
One crucial quality of all of those is that the stakes are relatively low. One of the signs of the decreasing quality of the Die Hard sequels is that the thing the baddie wants keeps getting bigger: an airport, New York City, the whole of the US. In recent Bond films, what the villain wants is so vast (all the oil in the world? to start a nuclear war? to take over the world?) that you forget about it even while you're watching the movie. The Raid is about one villain in one building and that's it. That's all you know and all you need to know.
Admittedly, there weren't many women in the audience, and those that were there seemed to have been lured there under a misapprehension.
PS There's a lovely review of it by Peter Bradshaw.