The Raid 2, which opened in theatres this weekend, is a martial arts extravaganza. The film includes one of the most outrageous car chases you've ever seen: a high-speed smash 'n' crash demolition derby, complete with machine guns and an intense hand-to-hand battle raging inside (and outside) one of the cars.
Everyone has a favourite movie car chase; some are partial to that flock of Mini Coopers in The Italian Job or Arnie on his motorcycle in Terminator 2: Judgment Day; others swear by the need for vehicular violence, as captured by Kurt Russell in Death Proof.
In honour of The Raid 2 raising the bar in these matters, here are five of the best car chases in movieland.
This is an extraordinary chase scene, in confined spaces at what seem to be stunningly high speeds, but a lot of the thrill is contained in the expression on Natascha McElhone's face as she careens through the streets and tunnels of Paris with Robert De Niro and Jean Reno in hot pursuit.
The movie has more than one chase scene; director John Frankenheimer (French Connection II) pulls out all the stops for this one, with its endless crashes, terrified pedestrians and wrong-way-on-the-freeway hysteria. And then the shooting and blowing up begins.
A viewer is placed front and centre here in the vehicular carnage. Cars and trucks appear to come right at you. The screeching and smashing noises alone will put you on the edge of your seat.
TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA (1985)
William Friedkin also directed The French Connection, so it seems fair to say that he's a dab hand when it comes to car chases. William Petersen is an agent pursuing a counterfeiter, but by the time he's through, everyone is pursuing him. In this justifiably famous chase sequence, Petersen takes off after a shooting with several cars in pursuit, negotiating through an industrial area chock-a-block with huge transports.
The chase takes everyone through rarely seen parts of Los Angeles, all urban blight and industry, and onto the maze of the highway system. There are some frantic bits through the city's viaducts and a shattering game of chicken — going the wrong way —on the freeway.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002)
The beauty of this carefully orchestrated getaway is the setting — the close quarters of the Parisian streets, with all those pedestrians they narrowly avoid and the fleet of cops in pursuit through tiny alleys and passageways. And then there's Matt Damon driving that tiny ancient Mini down a flight of tiny ancient stairs. Zut!
There's something intense about this chase, with a real-time feel to the way it unfolds. Of course, you can argue for The Bourne Supremacy (2004), with all that carnage in the tunnel or The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) for those in-your-face car crashes, but I think we can agree that Jason Bourne is one heckuva driver.
THE MATRIX RELOADED (2003)
Watching this was the first reminder in a decade that long before The Raid 2 we'd all seen a manic car chase with fisticuffs going on inside one of the involved vehicles.
The car chase that takes Morpheus and Trinity (Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss) onto the long-forbidden freeway is a symphony of slo-mo and CGI, all magical effects married to standard speeding and crashing. With a knife fight added into the mix, time is warped, cars bend and squash like rubber, and everything is wonderfully exaggerated and intense, especially the smash-ups.
The scene was so intricate, the Wachowskis constructed their own freeway to shoot it.
BAD BOYS 2 (2003)
That's Will Smith behind the wheel and Martin Lawrence in the passenger seat, playing Florida narcotics cops after a trail of Ecstasy. You don't know about this Michael Bay-directed movie because it's so entirely putrid (was that redundant?), but the key chase scene involves a massive vehicle transport truck loaded with two layers of brand new cars – and a bad guy releasing the cars, one by one, into freeway traffic.
This is one high speed mad melee, with impressive crashes and wreckage and a special moment when a boat goes through a windshield from the driver's P.O.V. Yerghhh.
The French Connection (1971)
Gone In 60 Seconds (1974)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)