The Raid (Also known as The Raid: Redemption elsewhere in the world) is a martial arts movie set in Jakarta and written and directed by a Welsh man. You might think it seems like an unlikely combination, and you’d be right. However, Gareth Huw Evans’ brain child is possibly the most exciting action film to have been made in a generation.
If you’re looking a soul searching pontification on the meaning of life and the fragility of love however, this is not the film for you. The Raid gets straight to the point with it’s theme and is consistant throughout. The thing that matters to protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais) is family.
Rama is a rookie elite cop who is sent on a mission to raid a tower block which is run by a notorious criminal overlord. Leaving his heavily pregnant wife, Rama embarks on the mission with an aditional motive to the rest of his squad, the search for a missing relative who’s been caputred by the gang. He has everything to live for and the raid is seemingly a suicide mission.
The introduction to the characters is swift and intense, quickly defining who are the good guys and who’s the bad within the opening five minutes. As the elite cops take on floor after floor of the 30 story building, they’re quickly spotted and from that moment they face waves of increasingly challenging, desperate and murderous thugs and have to navigate an alien building which is completely controled by the criminal overlord, Tama (Ray Sahetapy) with eyes, guns and fists in every corner while trying to stay alive.
The entire film feels like a computer game where our hero Rama battles on our behalf, out-numbered and against the odds through the different levels with a mission and a target clearly in his mind. Finding himself alone, without his squad and surrounded on every side, it’s kill or be killed. It’s touch and go when he comes up against Tama’s personal bodyguard, the terrifyingly vicious Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian).
For those of you who worry about language issues, the film is of course in Indonesian but there’s no time to even notice or read subtitles as the dialogue is bare minimum, leaving the way clear for wall to wall action, fighting and a lot of suspense.
The Raid in perfectly shot, brilliantly acted and well edited. Evans has an MA in screenwriting but decided to strip the script right down to bare essentials, only allowing for the audience to catch a breath between fight scenes. The film remains incredibly tense even when there’s no fighting happening, especially in a scene where our hero and his badly injured squad member are hiding in a secret wall compartment from a machete weilding henchman.
The main attraction is the choregraphy and how it’s captured. The speed at which these fighters move would be problematic for even the most seasoned of directors but Evans has been filming fight scenes ever since he was a child. He manages to follow the action so that we’re left with absolutely no confusion as to what’s happening at any given moment. Every shot is precise, confident and purposeful. Thankfully there is no shakey-cam work so the only disorientation you’ll experience is the dizziness at the amount of blood and graphic violence that occurs.
On that note, this film definately isn’t for the squeamish, there is absolutely no holding back in this building. The police start with guns but as the ammunition runs out they have to improvise with what they find in the building or use their fists. No one knows they’re there and with their radio frequencies blocked, no one’s coming for help. In an almost no holds barred environment, the violence that follows is brutal and graphic set amongst the backdrop of cleverly designed explosions and special effects. The bad guys also don’t wait around unrealistically for the hero to finish who he’s fighting. They all pile in at the same time giving the film a sense of urgency and tension.
Even though it’s a showcase for Pencak Silat, a largely undocumented form of martial arts, there are other forms involved for variety, if you know what you’re looking for you’ll spot the subtle differences, if not it won’t really matter much to the enjoyment of the film. The actors who formed the police squad were also sent on a military boot camp and put through extensive rehearsals prior to pre-production to create as real a depiction as possible.
One of the forgotten stars of the film is the building itself. The tower block is looming and ominous and is a fortress containing 30 floors of hell. Delapidated and full of people you wouldn’t like to meet on a sunny street, Rama’s starch collared, smart police uniform and clean cut demeanour are very out of place. The film plays out almost in real time with the exception of the first few floors which contain the building’s more docile residents. The plot, although simple, is branched between Rama’s intention to rescue his family member and at the same time, the ulterior motive of his boss and why he accepted the mission in the first place. The two never really converge properly and this makes the boss’ ulterior motivation and some of the final pschycological manipulation and twists a little less captivating than Rama’s story. But that’s ok.
There’s definately a reason Sony Pictures saw this and snapped it up and then added an epic soundtrack created especially by Linkin Park. Incredibly skillfull, entertaining and relentlessly tense filmmaking makes The Raid: Redemption the action movie of the year. It’s so energetic it will make you feel incredibly lazy compared but it’s absolutely worth it. If you’re a fan of the martial arts genre, there are enough suprises to keep it fresh and original. If you’re just a fan of action movies, then you should see it anyway.
The Raid is available in UK cinemas from 18th May.
See Also: The Raid comes to the UK