Written and directed by Welsh born Gareth Evans, The Raid: Redemption is set in an apartment complex run by vicious and extremely well-trained gangsters in Jakarta, Indonesia. Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim play SWAT team members Rama and Jaka, who find themselves immersed in an epic battle for survival as their team enters the building on a mission to extract the leader of the gang, Tama played by Ray Sahetapy.
Released in 2011 under the title Surbuan Maut, meaning “deadly invasion”, The Raid is a martial arts-meets-guns-and-knives action flick that has fans of the genre in a frenzy. The reviews are by far predominantly positive. It is likely due to the growing cult following that this film has found widespread release at last.
Set in a world of muted colors, everything covered in grime, including the inhabitants of the apartment complex themselves, Evans creates a powerful sense of desperation even before the blood begins…not that there is much time before the blood begins. When I say The Raid tells the story of an epic battle, I mean it. Aside from a brief introduction to Rama as he prepares for his day by doing sit-ups shirtless and offering a cryptic promise to his father to “bring him back,” before heading out the door, The Raid is almost literally non-stop action from beginning to end. Let me be more specific: it is almost literally non-stop graphically brutal violence and action from beginning to end.
And herein lies the rub. Four people walked out of The Raidwithin the first 20 minutes, two of whom were older women
who I suspect may have seen that the movie had subtitles and expected an artsy film about the horrors of poverty…or who knows, maybe they just wandered into the wrong theater. The violence is relentless and even with a relatively high threshold for such things, I found myself wondering if I should follow them out. Shoot ‘em ups are just not my thing without any story to hold on to.
Luckily, I knew I was going to write a review, so I had to stay. About 10 minutes after the exit of the only other women in the theater, I found myself pulled suddenly out of my gun-induced-stupor when Rama engaged in his first true, martial arts driven fight scene – with knives! This scene is…hypnotic. Fascinating. Choreographed like a bloody, brilliant dance.
Close on the heels of this first hand-to-hand fight, an element is added to the plot that lends a badly needed sense of urgency and anticipation to the film. I have read a number of reviews claiming there is no plot to speak of in The Raid, but I have to disagree. I found the story to be clichéd, it is true, but still effective. The cast members are more than just good fighters – they are talented actors. Once a few things are revealed to the audience, the film begins to work in both action and story.
From the first martial arts battle on, The Raid transforms from a film full of guns to one full of fists and it is amazing to watch. Yayan Ruhian as Mad Dog deserves special mention without doubt, as he brings not only crazy skills to his fight scenes, but also a perfect kind of menace and intensity needed for a villain. He is at the heart of more than one battle, and he is positively amazing to watch.
The Raid does not ever let up on violence, so if you go, be prepared: it is a beautiful, but blood-soaked spectacle. After one death, I found myself having to fight down a powerful attack of the giggles, not because the scene was silly, poorly done or deserving any kind of scorn, but because it was so intense I didn’t know what to do. I had the exact same reaction after near-miss car accident once.
Come to think of it, that’s how this movie left me – feeling like I had managed to avoid a horrible accident, all the carnage contained safely on the screen. And I mean that in a good way.
For a rundown of the trailers before The Raid (in my theater anyway) check out Before the Movie: The Raid
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