Film Review – The Raid 2

For those that haven’t seen The Raid, the plot essentially is this: there are bad guys in a tower block and a SWAT team is sent in to get the bad guys. In fact, I just looked up the tagline from the poster and it was “1 ruthless crime lord, 20 elite cops, 30 floors of chaos.” That was the extent of the story, and it was frigging awesome, one of the best action films I’d ever seen.

With all that being said, I was pretty excited when I saw earlier this week that Netflix had added the sequel. When I pressed play I was surprised to see that it was 2 and a half hours long, but by the time the credits were rolling I had to ask myself if 2 hours and 30 minutes had really elapsed, because the time flew by.

The first thing to mention is that everything is bigger: the running time, the location, which takes in the whole city, the storyline, the action, the violence, everything. Now, I’m going to admit something that will probably seem a bit strange seeing as I’m saying how much I enjoyed this and the previous film, but I actually find violent films hard to watch and most of the time you’ll find me watching the kind of fight scenes seen in films like this between my fingers, closing my eyes in anticipation of limbs being horrendously snapped by way of some killer martial arts move.

I’m very squeamish when it comes to things like limbs being snapped and left in weird angles, or anything eye related, or for that matter people getting shot in the head. To be honest, when dealing with things like that it’s really only the second time around when I know where these kinds of bits are that I can watch a little more comfortably. Obviously I have to have really enjoyed a film to actually go ahead and have a second viewing and there are plenty of violent films that haven’t engaged me enough to warrant that.

The next thing I want to draw attention to is that the athleticism of the actors involved is incredible, and the fight sequences are choreographed beautifully. All of this is allowed to shine by the directing of Gareth Evans, which is exemplary. That the Welsh born Evans has now helmed two classic (in my opinion at least but I know it’s an opinion shared by many others) Indonesian martial arts films is one of the more interesting stories in recent years, as well as the relationship with his leading man Iko Uwais, who incidentally is part of the fight choreography team and whose performance underpins the whole spectacle. He really is phenomenally good and a joy to watch.

I don’t think you can watch this film and not be impressed by the sheer energy and execution of an incredibly ambitious sequel, plus the whole thing looks utterly gorgeous, testament to the stellar work of the two cinematographers (Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono). The set pieces too are stupendous – all of them are exceptional so I won’t just pick one – and the final fight is incredible.

I realise this is quite a gushing review and it would be remiss of me not to say that it’s not without its faults, for example the plot is convoluted and hard to follow and it certainly isn’t a film for everyone in terms of the violence but, it’s just so damn fun.

So to end, if you fancy an action double bill, you could do worse than checking out The Raid 1 + 2 this weekend on Netflix.

I know I didn’t exactly discuss the storyline in great detail here but to be honest when it came down to it, the plot – which, whilst overly complicated in execution, is quite standard fare featuring police corruption and that oft-seen trope of a good guy having to infiltrate a criminal organisation – is secondary to the visceral, emotional impact that the film delivers through it’s action sequences. The energy and the impact of the sequences and set-pieces transcends the plot, in my eyes at least.

Check out the trailer below.




Depression Diary – my naivety knows no bounds and I lost my voice

I’ve decided that I’ll group everything about depression under the banner of ‘Depression Diary’, to try and keep it clearly separate from everything else I write about on here.

I wrote recently about my naivety at the prospect of my depression returning now that I was taken big steps towards getting the help I need, including putting together a plan that ultimately will see me get back into work and start really moving forwards with my life.

To be perfectly honest, I thought that going to the doctor, telling my friends and my mum – which I finally did last week –and getting in touch with a mental health organisation, would be like a magic bullet. I assumed that, now that I had come clean, so to speak, and got of the rid need to lie and pretend, that I’d be fine going forward. I understood it would take time to be fully functional again and I’m fully committed to taking one step at a time, but I thought that by making peace with everything and pacing myself going forward that I wouldn’t experience any major setbacks. It is safe to say then that this last week and a bit I was pretty frustrated to find that I lost my voice.

What I mean is, I could still talk, but I couldn’t write a thing. I felt empty and completely devoid of any emotion whatsoever. Well actually, at first I just felt vulnerable and exposed, it felt like the whole world knew too much, like I had no privacy and that my thoughts were no longer mine anymore. I was paranoid that people would now be analysing every little word and gesture trying to ascertain what my mental state was at any given moment. I made my peace with that one somewhat but then came the crushing empty feeling. It’s weird to be in a place where you just want to feel something whilst simultaneously hoping that it doesn’t develop into one of those horribly dark depressive episodes. And then comes the return of lying.

You don’t want to say to anyone so soon after telling everyone everything that ‘oh by the way, I’ve kinda felt pretty down these past few days.’ I can’t shake this feeling that now I’ve come out and said ‘hey, I have a problem but I’m taking steps to combat it’, people sort of assume that, well, he’ll be alright now. At the moment I’m feeling this pressure where I feel like I have to get better now otherwise at some point people will say ‘why aren’t you better yet?’

The reason I say my naivety knows no bounds is that I am well aware that for each step you take forward you have to allow yourself the time to assimilate to the new state of affairs. It is absolutely absurd to think that I wouldn’t have some kind of adverse reaction to the amount of mental hurdles I’ve been leaping recently. Part of everything I’ve been feeling is sheer mental exhaustion.

As this weekend arrives though, I can feel myself somewhat returning to normal and the patterns I’ve put in place to deal with situations like this are now ingrained habits, like staying active and exercising and not allowing myself to fall into one of those classic depressive funks of just staying in bed. Movement is life is probably my favourite new motto of the last couple of years.

What I’m most looking forward to over the next few days is getting back into the swing of things writing wise, as this was actually the longest time I went without writing or working on any of my creative projects in years.

My mind is perfectly in tune and aligned

He & She

My mind is perfectly in tune and aligned with my vagina and womb,

That’s why to 99% of you, gaining access to between my legs,

Will forever be like trying to master a Rubik’s cube, furthermore,

I’d rather gain motherhood, from the contents of a test tube,

Than ever lower my sights, I only speak the truth.


He taught me that the currency of the streets,

Was bravado and that most boys smiles,

Hid that they were sneaks and cheats,

And their word was not their bond,

But part of a narrative to get me in between the sheets.


She taught me to love my body and mind,

That to not would be worse than the kind of crime,

We saw being committed

All the time,

From street level,

To our stair wells,

Which were more like the nine levels of hell,

But we live on the tenth floor,

So I suppose that’s why we’ve always been above that.


She was and still is always full of ire and fire,

Always looking out of our window

And saying the streets below are like a giant funeral pyre,

Where hopes and dreams get cremated.

She says it’s not an excuse to use material deprivation

As the driving force behind the mistakes that are created,

Like boys drifting into gangs and selling drugs,

And it’s always the same ones causing trouble on the top deck of my bus.


It was also She that informed me, recently, that girls are more now than just objects of lust.

They too, had their own crews, with their own feuds,

Which She learnt from negotiating a truce,

In her position as a school councillor,

When a beef from the streets, spilled over past the school gates

And She was forced to cool the heat.


But even so, she said that

Girls were still mostly islands for the boys to conquer, or else some type of collateral,

(She even said she knew for a fact that some of the mothers of my friends were hooked on prescription drugs like Tramadol)


I’m only human,

But sometimes I think you have to be supernatural,

To not get caught in a downward spiral,

It’s like, what He and She want for me,

Is incompatible with my reality,

But then I remember how He,

Loves to watch men scrap on TV,

For the right to lift belts bearing the initials WBC,

And He tells me that’s how I should approach life,

Like a fight, and the older I get, the more I know he’s right.


I’m proud of my upbringing,

Because I know that one day it will allow me to take flight,

And what a sight I’ll be,

Rising like a phoenix out of the ashes

Of a dystopian, gritty, hungry, inner-city.

A black urban version of Katniss Everdeen.


I’m proud of everything I receive,

And I’m happy for our lack of wealth,

Because it means that everything is concentrated

On ensuring my intellectual health,

And lessons in wisdom, discipline and dignity.


I’m only 13 but I’m keen and ready,

They even taught me that everybody is a He or She,

That everyone had to earn the title of friend or family,

Based on how they interacted with me.


So really, I hope you listen good when I say,

I’m proud every day, that He and She,

Are my Mummy and Daddy.


Toni is a young woman with big ambitions for the future. She lives in a block of flats in South London. She doesn’t know it yet but her parents constant assessments of people around her will see her ambition blossom into an interest in the human psyche and lead her down the path of psychology to try and understand what motivates people to do what they do.


The first of a few I’ll write using different characters. 

Once I began talking, she listened, and

I had my first meeting with the mental health employment support team…

And I have to say I’m delighted to be taking the steps I have been. The one thing that I think will stick in my mind forever about this first meeting was how liberating it was to speak openly and unashamedly about depression to someone, and to have this someone speak to me just as openly and frankly.

Of course I was a little nervous when I first sat down and a little unsure as to what to say, but as soon as I answered a few opening questions about my circumstances she* completely lowered my guard by talking about depression, its effects and how important it is to tackle it and not struggle alone as I had been doing. It was the detail with which she spoke that gave me the confidence that I was in good hands and was with someone that understood and had dealt with and helped people like me. That may seem strange considering that I was sitting opposite the senior employment consultant of an organisation** whose remit is exactly that – helping people like me – but there is a difference between appearances and reality, as a lot of people with mental health issues can attest to due to unfortunate dealings with doctors (and people in general), which I’ll come back to later.


Anyway, I now felt confident enough to offer more than just perfunctory answers and elaborate a little, which brings me to another point that will always stick in my mind. Once I began talking, she listened, and I mean really listened. She didn’t interject at any point with comments, but simply waited for me to finish. Again, that may seem a small thing but it is incredibly hard to find that. With no interruptions forthcoming and in an environment I felt was safe, I found myself speaking more freely than I normally would having just met someone. I mean, I hardly revealed anything amazing or even anything more than what I had put on my referral forms I had initially posted to their office. But still, it was nice.

The one issue that came up – and again I know I may come across as incredibly naïve not to have thought about it – was the possibility (or in her opinion, going by my history, the probability) of my depression returning at some point in the future. To be honest, with all the progress I’ve been making, which includes an emphasis on looking forward and positivity that I have been staunchly sticking to, I really hadn’t considered the ramifications of depression returning. Caught off guard, I suddenly felt a little vulnerable and hankering after a stiff drink (an urge I hadn’t felt in quite a while and I later shared that for many years that was how I coped, by self-medicating with alcohol).

The feeling soon passed though and we examined further the implications of the possible re-emergence of depression. Composure regained, I remembered that everything that was being said was from a place of understanding and crucially, of experience, and as I have said to myself plenty of times recently and also to her, I’m done with trying to cope alone and allowing destructive thought patterns – such as that asking for help is weak – hinder me. Moreover, seeing as she is the one with ample experience of dealing with people like me, I need to just defer to her and allow other peoples wisdom to guide me because after all, I haven’t done such a great job myself this last 8 or 9 years.

Basically what was explained to me was that, seeing as every time I had a bout of depression they had got steadily worse and darker, it was important, imperative, to now stay on the track I was on and stay in contact with all the relevant parties because simply put, the pattern of the bouts getting worse and not dealing with things properly can easily lead to psychosis. To me it sounded extreme but I listened intently because I never thought my mind would ever take me to the some of the places it had during the last few years, this after always believing in the aftermath of a bout that I had a handle on it and that I could cope, before it came back far stronger and as I say, far darker too.


After all this, I was informed of the ways in which the organisation could help me. These ranged from helping me identify jobs I want to go for, to preparing for interviews to discussing my mental health with prospective employers because again, what happens if the depression returns when I am working? If your employer knows from the outset that you have a mental health issue then you are protected by law. If though, you go for a job, do not disclose you have any issues and suddenly find yourself struck down, you can be sacked for underperformance. This was a scenario that had played on my mind a lot in the last couple of years and scared me from really throwing myself into the job market, because not only did I lack the confidence to disclose I suffered with depression, I no doubt wouldn’t have had the confidence to admit that depression was the source of my troubles if I had managed to land a job in the last couple of years and then found myself struggling.

The truth of the matter is that there was a lot of self-sabotage in the way I went about applications during this period; they were part of the charade, part of the narrative that I concocted to enable me to pass as OK to friends and family whilst secretly falling into deeper, darker depths. It was in fact when my mind betrayed me to the extent that suicidal thoughts became a big feature of my depression that I truly knew I had to make drastic changes in the way I went about things. I never wanted to get to the point where I would do something stupid and not even be aware of it because I was being gripped so tightly by depression. I certainly respect the power and danger of depression because I’ve charted its evolution within me.

I’ll admit that there are details missing here about all the options available to me, because as you can imagine despite the experience being pleasant it was still a little overwhelming. What I will say is that all the help that is available is help that I am going to gratefully receive and utilise. I’ll be attending the job club on Monday, have been placed in a small group that gets help and guidance in terms of job searching and also have my weekly meetings with the lady I met on Tuesday.


One of the things that I am most looking forward to doing is rebuilding my confidence in my skills and abilities. I am aware that I am a capable person and have many skills that make me employable but one of the consequences of my depression is that for a long time I lost confidence and often felt stuck in a pattern of self-loathing and low self-esteem, all of which are things I know don’t tally with how my friends see me but the only explanation I can offer to anyone who found it surprising when I finally came out and told my friends is that it felt easier for a long time to simply act in a way that passed as normal. The thing with acting and pretending though is that the weight of the deception, of trying to keep up the pretence, gets heavier and heavier until you reach breaking point.

Giving Back

One of the avenues that was presented to me during my meeting was the possibility of in the future working within the mental health sector, which is something that appeals to me. I suppose it is a common thing that once you have received help and have begun the process of overcoming your problems, you wish to be able to help others in similar situations.

I was even informed of how people who learn to cope with their issues can be deployed to help people within the medical profession and businesses understand just what it is like to live with a mental health issue, which brings me back to my experience with a doctor that I said I would get to.

It was explained to me how even now, there is still so much ignorance about mental health and how it affects people and that this ignorance stretches through every facet of society. This really shouldn’t be the case, not in 2015, not when there is so much information readily available but, it chimed with my own experience.

A few years ago, I found the courage to go to the doctor. I found this courage principally because at the time I was in my first serious relationship and I confided to my girlfriend my problems, which is a restrained way of saying that I fell apart one night as I was in the middle of one of those dark periods (hiding things from friends is infinitely easier than a partner because, well, you’re not around them so much and you don’t really have that same opportunity to bury yourself in isolation.) Anyway, my girlfriend of the time accompanied me and, let’s see, from the off the doctor seemed pretty disinterested, seemingly only half-listening to what I was saying to her (which I know could be misconstrued as paranoia on my part) Finally she looks up and says that it sounds like depression with bi polar tendencies (I’m actually sure that the more extreme of my mood swings and bad decision making was down to alcohol but nevertheless I’m seeing the doctor next week anyway but I really don’t think I have bi-polar but at the time I guess it fit). After the doctor said this, I thought OK I guess this is the part where she’ll elaborate and give me information about where to go, who to talk to etc. anything really other than looking at me and saying ‘you have a girlfriend, you have a job, you’re at uni, why are you depressed?’ I was stumped because hey, you’re right, that’s how depression works.

She wrote up a prescription for some pills, told me to take them and then come back and see her. She didn’t even take the time to explain the prescription to me. I didn’t take the pills because I’m scared to go down that route but to not even take the time to explain them to me, I mean come on.

Oh and incidentally, that job I had ended up being the last one I’ve had after I quit a few months later because I couldn’t cope. The girlfriend went too but that whole relationship was admittedly a very interesting story that I really don’t have time for here seeing as this is already clocking in at nearly 2000 words.


In the end though, that experience with the doctor was a long time ago and you know what, now is a time of positivity and forward momentum. So it lets just end on that.


*She being Earlyne Jordan, the senior employment consultant of –

** Status Employment



One week to go before I turn 29

The last year of my twenties is fast approaching. My natural disposition is one that is heavily optimistic and joyful and certainly not one that lingers on things like the passage of time in a negative way. I know that it stems from a boundless ambition and enthusiasm for life. With all that being said, it is exceptionally gratifying to be looking at next week with my natural mentality.

It’s true that a lot of my twenties have been punctuated by long, bleak episodes of depression, passages of time that, up until not that long ago made me look at the coming new decade of my life with apprehension. Could I really cope with another decade like the one before? How was I meant to achieve any of my ambitions or have any kind of fulfilment with that horrible spectre hanging over me? I’d long gone past the point where I thought I could ride the waves when the storm came, the act of coping shown up to be an illusion to the point that even when the devil released me from his grip the ensuing relief and happiness was tempered by the knowledge that the darkness would come again.

Right now though, everything in that second paragraph is a distant memory. Of course it isn’t, not really, after all it’s only in the last year and a bit that I’ve started to put things in place to overcome depression once and for all, and it’s only been a couple of weeks since I finally told my friends, too at last rid myself of the pressure and weight of pretending. But every step forward feels like the equivalent of a thousand steps in the right direction and with each one of those steps I feel more alive and energised.

Last year I wrote a post about the film Side Effects, a film I enjoyed very much. In it I mention how Jude Law’s character says that a psychologist once described depression as not being able to construct a future. I think in another post I discussed how I didn’t think that description was 100% accurate, but does provide a succinct way of looking at it and does fit very nicely with how I feel now.

Feeling strong mentally as I do now in a way I haven’t for many years, my old, natural tendencies are once again flourishing and that really is why I’m looking forward to next week and the years to come with relish. When I sit here and think about that, I know that it isn’t just progress, it is happiness.

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Inquisitive: Part 7


Part 7 of my short story – you can find all the previous parts here too. Let me know what you think.

Originally posted on River Ram Press #InspireWriters #InspireReaders:

By Hassan Izzo

I nodded in response.

“It’s actually been seven days.”

“Seven days?”


I studied the woman opposite me. I’d only ever seen photographs of my grandmother and was fairly sure that this woman was her, but my mind was struggling to take everything in. “Is it really you?”


“Is granddad here?” She didn’t respond straight away and I don’t know why, but I sensed she was trying to maintain her composure.

“I’m going to ask that you trust me.”

“Trust you?”

“You weren’t meant to see all of this now, but you are here, so I need you to trust me and do as I say.”

“OK, I trust you.”

“Good, because you wouldn’t want to spend eternity in that corridor would you?”

My mouth went dry instantly at the thought. “No…why, could that happen?”

“Only if you do not listen to me, my dear boy.”

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