– Summary –
Director : Gareth Evans
Year Of Release : 2011
Principal Cast : Iko Uwais, Donny Alamsyah, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Joe Taslim, Tegar Satrya, Eka Rahmadia.
Approx Running Time : 101 Minutes
Synopsis: A SWAT team infiltrates a derelict apartment building in order to take out the vicious crime lord who resides there.
What we think : Violent, kinetic action-thriller delivers an orgy of death, mayhem and some truly astonishing sequences of martial arts – The Raid is not for the faint of heart, nor the squeamish. A lack of character development hinders the emotional through-line of the film, although this is secondary to the sheer volume of gunfights, fist-fights, knife fights, and alternative martial arts violence that comes your way. A blistering action film that delivers just what fans of the genre expect, and then some. I can imagine many not enjoying this for the excessive and often-illogical combat herein, however I had an absolute blast with it; The Raid is thrilling, jaw-dropping and an absolute must-see for fans of solid, hard-hitting action.
The real attack the block.
In what can only be described as a huge middle finger to Hollywood’s seemingly insatiable appetite for PG-friendly, politically correct, sugar coated action films these day (I’m looking at you, Abduction, Live Free Or Die Hard, and Twilight…. meh), Welsh director Gareth Evans has delivered quite possibly the most astonishing hard-core action-thriller to come down the pipe in the best part of a decade. Filmed in Indonesia, and featuring a predominantly Indonesian cast, The Raid (with it’s US-inspired subtitle Redemption) is a no-holds barred, balls out smackdown of epic proportions, the likes I’ve not seen since…. well, ever. The film’s violence is refreshingly realistic, even excessive at times, which makes a terrific change from the bloodless tripe we saw in films like Ultra Violet and The Hunger Games, to name two. If you’re gonna show people being skewered, shot and disemboweled, then you need to see some blood, because death is usually pretty darn messy. The Raid corrects the imbalance we’ve endured in recent times, with a virtual non-stop assault of the senses in fights, gun battles and general anti-social mayhem. Is it a good film? The question perhaps best asked is, what makes it less than a truly great film?
The story – as wafer thin as it is – is easily summed up. There’s this apartment building, see, where a local crime lord resides, and it’s been turned into a kind of criminal-slum for hire, a place even the police are afraid to go. So when a special forces team of cops are sent in to “take the guy out”, you can bet there’s going to be some pretty brutal action, considering the place is overrun with low-lives and scumbags. The lead character is Rama (Iko Uwais), a relatively rookie cop who has a pregnant wife at home waiting (there’s your emotional hook, dear reader) but finds himself in an almost untenable scenario of gunfire and blood, as he the raid goes bad and all hell breaks loose. The crime lord, Tama (Ray Sahetapy) is protected by two men; one, known as Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) is completely psycho, while the other, Andi (Donny Almsyah) is more reserved and contemplative, which makes both of them thoroughly dangerous. As the cops fight their way through the army of bad guys, punks and crims, their situation becomes more desperate as they realize they have no means of escape – no backup, no hope of rescue, nothing.
They say that a picture paints a thousand words, and that much is true of The Raid – the film’s original language is Indonesian, so you’ll either be watching subtitles to understand the dialogue or listening to the frankly awful US dub – because there’s only a few sequences of extended dialogue, in amongst the non-stop violence and action. The fact that the film remains free of things like character development and actual plot is never a problem; in fact, it actually works in the film’s favor, because it can spend more time getting into the bone crunching action. There’s tacit nod to plot, with Rama being given the at-home-pregnant-wife, which taps into our fear that he might be among those killed in this raid, but once the raid actually kicks off, it’s only mentioned once after that. Like I said, a tacit nod. The characters in this film aren’t real people, at least they don’t behave like real people might: with all the gung-ho machismo leeching from the screen, this is pure, unadulterated fantasy.
As much as you can have character development in a film where the majority of the time is spend focusing on the action, Iko Uwais has a tough time actually emoting when required. While it’s tough for a person who doesn’t speak the native language of the film to really feel the emotion in the words and weigh up the truth of an acting performance within it, I’m hard pressed to give too many props for Uwais’ portrayal of a man caught in the middle of a maelstrom thanks to his somewhat wooden performance – his opening scene, with him saying goodbye to his wife and unborn child, is thrifty to say the least, and a confrontation towards the latter half of the film with a character he has a link with comes across as somewhat forced. Uwais couldn’t be blamed for this, though, because he’s at his best when the fists start flying. Ray Sahetapy, as the central villain, Tama, is terrific, brutal and effective. We don’t quite know why he’s as powerful as he is (although a drug lab sequence midway through the film indicates part of is business empire) but it doesn’t matter. All we know, or need to know, about him is that he’s one sadistic mofo, and needs to be taken out. And Yayan Ruhian is suitably wild-eyed as Mad Dog, who butchers his way through the film until coming up against a three-way Boss Fight at the very end. As I said, these characters aren’t realistic, nor are they always believable, serving the story simply to propel the action and not much else. Imagine Die Hard mixed with Ong Bak, remove the yippee ki yay, amp things up to 11, and The Raid is what you end up with.
About the action: wow. When somebody says “wall-to-wall action” for this film, you’d better believe it. Once the raid commences, and things go all pear-shaped, the violence and action kicks off and doesn’t let up. Brutal apartment complex passageway brawls, lobby gunfights, hand-to-hand combat with a ferocity I’ve not seen in years, and a raw, gritty, sweaty reality mixing some of the best pencak silat martial arts you’re ever gonna witness, The Raid offers a mixture of traditional and modern action in ways that defy both gravity and physical human endurance. Bones are broken, throats slit, bodies punctured, heads blown apart, and more – The Raid is a brutal but effective action thriller, leaving nothing in reserve and laying all it’s got out on the screen. Director Gareth Evans, who is based in Indonesia, delivers a fat-free film experience like no other. The film is dark, morose and utterly lacking in light and happiness – you’d hate to live in this world, because it’s so darn depressing. But that’s a positive; the shadows and dimly lit corridors of the apartment complex, coupled with the run-down, semi-abandoned nature of the setting, draw out a truly grimy action film that pounds its way through the story and delivers an assault on the senses. Evans handles each sequence with a sure hand, never using the same camera angle or stunt sequence more than once, and manages to make an apartment complex brawl seem unique and vital with each passing minute. The editing is terrific, lacking the rapid-shutter shaky-cam style most film fans hate in modern films today and instead, using the camera to really put the viewer inside the action.
Evans throws the camera around, with above, below and sideways shots that never let up: it’s a barrage of style that never once keeps the audience at a distance. The setting, the apartment block in which this all occurs, is lit with a kind of urine-stained feel, the grimy interior evoking feelings of ick whenever the cast touch the walls or the floor. The DOP, Matt Flannery, does a top notch job with the low budget by using the lack of glitz and glamor to enhance the film, instead of being constricted by it. Depth of focus is a pretty interesting beast on this one as well, with what I think is a fairly limited use of the technique – something many action films usually pride themselves on. Instead, the frame is generally fairly “flat”, lacking a movement of focus in many of the shots, although it’s never really an issue thanks to Evans’ gravity defying use of the camera to get his shots.
With a cast of willing combatants, a director unafraid to remove the crap nobody cares about (human emotion) and focus simply on the action, and a simple, effective plot premise, The Raid: Redemption is a dynamite action film for folks who love their gore and martial arts to really hurt. It’s a blazing, bollocking, rock’em sock’em thriller with plenty of blood, bruises and multi-level smackdowns; it’s everything you could want in an adult action flick. Turn it on, crank it up, and prepare to have your mind blown.