Also showing (18/05/2012)

New films out this week

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The Independent Culture

The Raid (18) ***

Gareth Evans, 101 mins

Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim

Gareth Huw Evans's superviolent thriller hits the ground running as a SWAT team prepares to raid a high-rise slum in Jakarta that's hideout to a drug kingpin, countless thugs and an arsenal fit for World War III. When the police are outnumbered and trapped, rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) steps forward to launch the counterattack, floor by floor.

Evans understands the use of space, tensely confining the action to a single building just like Assault on Precinct 13 and Die Hard. Fightwise, the film's selling point is the martial art of Pencak Silat, a speeded-up balletic chopsocky involving athletic finesse and a lot of grunted "hai!"s. Like Jackie Chan, they make imaginative use of kitchen furniture, throwing each other over tables, fridges and ovens as they whirl about a room. The danger is overkill: one fight seemed to go on for about ten minutes, by which point you'd prefer one of them just to drop dead.

She Monkeys (12A) ***

Lisa Aschan, 83 mins

Starring: Mathilda Paradeiser, Linda Molin

Lisa Aschan's debut feature could be called a coming-of-age drama, though it's really a provocation on the subject of pubertal sexuality. Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser) is a self-contained teenager who's just joined the local pony club and found an admirer in killer-blonde Cassandra (Linda Molin). Emma's sister Sara (Isabella Lindquist) is a seven-year-old in love with the teenage cousin who babysits her. No wonder their widowed dad keeps out of things.

The story doesn't move along conventional rails, and is generally the more intriguing for it. The sight of a stallion mounting a mare is perhaps de trop – talk about a gratuitous sex scene – but elsewhere the film is graced with subtle and disquieting touches of comedy.

Even the Rain (15) **

Iciar Bollain, 103 mins

Starring: Luis Tosar, Gael Garcia Bernal

Colonial guilt crashes head-on with Bolivian insurrection in a drama scripted by Ken Loach regular Paul Laverty. A Spanish film crew arrives in the city of Cochabamba to start shooting a revisionist movie about Christopher Columbus, one that will tell the truth about the vicious depredations and murder inflicted upon the Indian population circa 1511.

The focus of the story shifts between the film's producer (Luis Tosar), director (Gael Garcia Bernal) and a local activist (Juan Carlos Aduviri) hired to play one of the rebellious natives. Soon a local dispute over the sale of water rights is echoing events of 500 years earlier, and the film production finds itself being eclipsed by real events out on the streets.

Laverty's script is wry about the difficulties of shooting in a foreign language ("How did Disney ever pass on this?") and rather didactic about everything else, including the eternal nature of colonial exploitation. It's based on an actual dispute of 2000, when civil demonstrators made war on the corporate privatisation of water – "even the rain" was up for grabs. The film steers an awkward, unconvincing course between the cushy narcissism of the film-makers and the idealised nobility of "the people".

2 Days in New York (15) **

Julie Delpy, 96 mins

Starring: Chris Rock, Julie Delpy

Julie Delpy follows up her 2 Days in Paris (2007) with another featherweight rom-com that will do nothing to improve US-French relations. Delpy again plays Marion, now in New York with a child by ex-boyfriend Jack and sharing an apartment with new partner Mingus (Chris Rock) and his kid.

Their relationship undergoes its first serious test when her father, her sister and her creepy boyfriend arrive from Paris to stay. Did the latter just invite a dope-dealer into their place? Did Delpy pere really object to sleeping on the couch because he wouldn't have anywhere to "jerk off"? Oui, malheureusement. Rock at least is funny; when Delpy describes her sister as "mildly schizophrenic", he asks her what that means: "I meant to kill Ringo, not John?" More of that, less of everything else would have been the ticket.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (R/I) *****

Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 163 mins

Starring: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr

One of the most remarkable aspects of this Powell-Pressburger classic of 1943 is its timing. Britain was still in a fight to the death with Nazism when they made this civilised and touching picture about an old soldier and his embodiment of honour, decency and fair play. Churchill tried to have it banned, and no wonder: fair play would cut no ice against Hitler. Roger Livesey plays career soldier Clive Candy, from his rowdy youth in 1902 to crusty old age as a retired general in 1942, during which span he becomes fast friends with the German officer (Anton Walbrook) he first encountered in a Berlin duel.

The film is epic in scope yet intimate in its account of a man's character, of how it clings to youth and romance even as his body ages. Deborah Kerr was never more radiant, first as the woman both men love, and later as two near-doubles of Candy's elusive soulmate. Magnificent.

The Source (15) ***

Radu Mihaileanu, 135 mins

Starring: Leila Bekhti, Hafsia Herzi

Radu Mihaileanu's comedy drama is set in a poor mountain village in the present-day Middle East, where sexual equality and running water are both slow to arrive. Fed up with the slave's lot – women fetching and carrying while the men laze about drinking coffee – a young woman named Leila (Leila Bekhti) mobilises a wives' "love strike" until such time as the men establish a water system for the village. Leila becomes a target of resentment as the men invoke traditional arguments and methods (wife-beating).

Partly inspired by the Aristophanes comedy Lysistrata, it is strongly cast if overlong. But as a plea for yanking male attitudes out of the Dark Ages it's unarguable.