A glance back at the crop of action films released in Hollywood over the last couple of years appears to show a shift toward computer generated stunt work and an attitude of "bigger is better" when it comes to budgets and explosions.
The Raid, a no-holds-barred action picture filmed in Indonesia, looks set to end that trend.
Filmed with a budget of less than £2m, The Raid harks back to the days when an action film plot could be confidently scrawled on to the back of a beer coaster. Twenty police officers make their way into a block of flats in search of a gang lord. He shuts down the building, which is filled with a rogues gallery of villains, and all hell breaks loose.
That is the film in a nutshell, though the action that follows is something to behold. The fight sequences (of which there are many) showcase some of the most stunning and brutal choreography seen at the cinema. The screams and war cries that appear on screen are mirrored by winces and squeals from the cinema audience - this is a visceral shared experience.
One of the main talking points of the film is the emergence of a new star, Indonesian actor Iko Uwais, 29. It is impossible to watch a scene of him dismantling a corridor's worth of goons armed with a knife and baton without coming to the realisation that you are watching something special. It is like watching an artist at work.
The martial art utilised by Uwais, called pencak silat, is a far cry from the floaty, graceful kung fu that pervades the majority of mainstream martial arts cinema. Uwais is a blur of elbows and knees, smashing faces and joints with a spectacular efficiency, a whirling dervish of limbs who actually makes you feel sorry for the victims at times - especially one poor soul who has an unfortunate encounter with a door frame.
There is no sidestepping the level of violence in The Raid. Men die by the dozens. They are shot, stabbed, chopped and thrown out of windows, while blood spatters make it look like Jackson Pollack was responsible for the stage dressing. Welsh director Gareth Evans, who has made himself one to watch, knows his audience and apologetically turns the dial up to 11. The stunt actors and choreographers deserve huge plaudits for their ability to create such primal, unflinching sequences without actually killing anybody.
Is it a perfect action film? There are a few niggles. Considering the scarcity of plot, the fact that its central conceit becomes a bit rushed and confused in the final third of the film seems needless, while some of the acting during dialogue scenes can be a touch stilted. Anyone who is not a fan of action films will find themselves yawning through some of the protracted fight scenes - but those people are certainly not the target audience.
The Raid punches a hole through the chest of bloated, turgid Hollywood blockbusters and kicks them out of a window. This is a wake-up call to action fans and filmmakers - one that was long overdue.
Viewing Guide: Best Fight sequences.
Does the Raid have the best martial arts scenes of all? IBTimes UK lists some other contenders:
The Warrior King /The Protector
When Tony Jaa first appeared in Ong Bak (2003), he was lauded by many as the next Bruce Lee. His next film, released in the UK and US under the title The Warrior King, featured some of the most impressive fight sequences of all time, all performed without a stunt double or wire work. The scene above sees Jaa's character batter an entire multi-storey restaurant of henchmen, all filmed within a single shot.
A popular choice for traditionalists, the film of the life of Ip Man (the legendary trainer of Bruce Lee) follows peace-loving Donnie Yen as he tries to carve out a life amid Japanese occupation. Eventually he loses his temper and comes face to face with 10 black belts. The results are impressive to say the least.
Enter The Dragon
It is impossible to describe a martial arts film star without using the name of the great original, the legend that is Bruce Lee. In a short, magnificent career, Bruce Lee changed the face of martial arts cinema. This scene from the classic Enter the Dragon is especially notable because of the of victim of Lee's skills is a young Jackie Chan.
Does the Raid compete with these legendary displays of martial arts expertise? See the trailer below: