FILM REVIEWS: Jiro Dreams of Sushi and The Raid: Redemption

Japan's Master of sushi minimalism and a violent slaughterfest

Jiro Ono is the only sushi chef in the world to receive three Michelin stars. Find out more about this 85-year-old sushi master in Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Violent slaughterfest is a ballet of brutality

 

It is possible to tell a lot about The Raid: Redemption just from the end credits, which scroll on for minutes with “Machete Gang #11,” “Junkie Man #2,” “AK-47 Attacker #6” etc. (there are, of course, a few characters with actual names). But the kicker comes towards the end of the credit crawl when a half-dozen doctors and three massage therapists are also listed. In short, this is a seriously brutal fight film where the “body count” on the set mimicked the body count in the movie itself. Acclaimed as one of the best such flicks in recent years, Indonesia’s Raid is a hyper-violent slaughterfest that combines gun battles with bone-crunching hand-to-hand combat and incredibly vicious knife work. In short, fun for the whole (Manson) family!

The movie’s protagonist is Rama, a rookie on a SWAT team whose 18 members are conducting a raid on one of the city’s most notorious gangsters. Secure in a fortress-like tenement populated with loyal thugs, the boss baddie thinks he is immune from police intervention. As it turns out, he should feel smug: snipers, machine-gunners and a swarm of machete-wielding goons kill most of the cops in the first five minutes. But brave Rama is crazy-good when it comes to a fight, and this certified hero proceeds to take out the trash with a vigour that had a preview audience hooting and gasping at all the inventive ways a human body could be pummeled, pounded, perforated and otherwise broken beyond repair.

As you’d expect with a genre that has much in common with pornography, the dialogue sounds like a first draft and the wisp of a plot relies on absurd coincidences. But you rarely have time to ponder these shortcomings, as there is always some 10-against-one battle royale or a one-on-one duel with fists and feet of fury. If you admire great fight choreography and like your mayhem distilled to its essence, check this one out. M

 

The Raid: Redemption ★★★½

Directed by Gareth Evans

Starring Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian

R – 101 minutes

Continues at the Odeon

 

 

Japan’s Master of Sushi Minimalism

 

 

We segue from chop socky to sublime sushi with Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a marvelous documentary profiling 85-year-old Jiro Ono, Japan’s most revered master of raw-fish-as-art. Abandoned as a young child, Jiro had no choice but to look after himself. In doing so, he developed an intimidating level of self-discipline. For seven decades he has dedicated his life to making sushi, and a combination of fierce commitment and rare talent has earned him a three-star Michelin rating (meaning that a Jiro meal is all the justification you need to fly to Japan). It gets better. His restaurant serves only sushi, has a scant 10 seats, and it costs a minimum of 30,000 yen (close to $400) for a meal of 20 pieces of sushi that might be gobbled up in less than half an hour. And that’s if you can get a reservation.

Jiro looks like a wizened kung fu sensei and proves to be a fascinating character as little bits of personal history and a quirky sense of humour emerge from beneath his ascetic façade. The details of how he runs his restaurant, what it means to be a sushi apprentice, and the relationship with his two sons — both chefs — are all compelling. A Japanese food writer adds useful perspective, while a visit to the fish market, especially the tuna auction, makes for a wonderfully weird cultural experience. Whether you’re a hardcore foodie or just want to be immersed in the life of this intense and incredible man, Sushi is a must-see. M

 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi ★★★½

Directed by David Gelb

Starring Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono

PG – 81 minutes

Continues at the Odeon

 

Perfectly Potable

Sake is often thought of as “rice wine” but it is brewed and not fermented, which makes it more in line with beer. First made more than a millennium ago, sake is relatively potent at around 15 per cent and has various flavour notes ranging from apples and bananas to herbs, spices and even caramel. And sake is now part of the cocktail craze, with such notable concoctions as the saketini and the ominously titled sake bomb. A few pricey vintage sakes are available here, but casual consumers are better off buying entry-level bottlings from Hakutsuru.

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