THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2012)
THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011, Released in the U.S. in 2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares
Made by a Welshman and set in Indonesia (in Indonesian, with English subtitles), THE RAID: REDEMPTION (known simply as THE RAID overseas), is something of a breath of fresh air in the action movie arena. Making American action films look like they were filmed in slo-mo in comparison, THE RAID is 100 minutes of pure adrenaline.
The movie is about a police task force led by Sgt.Jaka (Joe Taslim), sent to an aging 30-floor tenement building to apprehend a vicious crime lord named Tama (Ray Sahetapy) who lives on the top floor. Sounds simple enough, except that the building is pretty much wall-to-wall criminals, since Tama populates the place with fugitives and gangsters. Tama also has a wall of television screens, and cameras placed on every floor throughout the building, so it’s pretty hard to catch him off guard. When he catches on about the raid, Tama announces over a loudspeaker that he will give free rent for life to anyone who kills a cop, and so killers start coming out of the woodwork.
Also in the mix is young rookie, Rama (Iko Uwais), who we see leaving his pregnant wife to go to work when the movie opens. Even though he is eager, you know he has no clue how violent this raid is going to become. It turns out that Rama is an amazing fighter/martial artist, but even he will be pushed to the very limits of his abilities. There’s also the graying lieutenant, Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) who masterminded the raid and wants to come off as a hero to his higher ups – even if it’s at the expense of the younger cops’ lives. Although, when the going gets rough, he seems more content to watch from the sidelines. Crime kingpin Tama also has two killer henchmen, Andi (Doni Alamsyah) and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), and if the cops get through the rest of the criminals who populate each floor, chances are slim they’ll be able to get past these two professional killers.
That’s the set up. Twenty cops enter a building and have to make their way to the top, with maybe a hundred killers out for their blood. The violence involves knives, guns and hand-to-hand combat.
Not all that much in the way of a plot. And even then, there was a similar storyline in the second half of PUNISHER WAR ZONE (2008 – one of my favorite Marvel superhero flicks), where the Punisher (Ray Stevenson) had to make his way through a building of killers. Yet THE RAID makes the story completely its own, and turns that simple plot into a riveting movie.
At first, I wasn’t too excited. The cops enter the building and make their way up through the first five floors without too much trouble. But then Tama makes his announcement to his unsavory tenants, and the apartments erupt with gun and machete-toting bad guys, and suddenly things get very violent indeed.
Continuous fighting and violence can get monotonous over time, but somehow THE RAID keeps things interesting. Whether it’s men jumping through a hole in a floor, only to get attacked when they land, or cops having to turn a kerosene tank inside a refrigerator into a bomb, THE RAID keeps you on the edge of your seat. And it’s pretty great seeing Iko Uwais in action in several scenes where he gets to show off his fighting skills. Uwais is the star here, and the scenes where he fights dozens of criminals at a time are very impressive.
But there is one scene that simply takes this movie to another level. It involves a showdown between Mad Dog and Rama (and one more surprise combatant). It’s two good guys vs. one bad guy and yet Yayan Ruhian as Mad Dog is simply amazing. He’s short and stocky and yet he is more than able to hold his own against his two adversaries. All three of them are great fighters. And their 10-minute or so brawl is actually pretty breathtaking to behold. If you’re into this kind of thing, you will be glued to your seat as the melee unfolds and then escalates to fight choreography perfection. Yuyan actually has two amazing scenes, this one and a previous fight with Jaka, and he’s just as important to the storyline – and exciting as a fighter – as Uwais is, in my opinion. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I thought Yayan was the best thing about THE RAID.
Directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, who also wrote the screenplay (Evans’ previous films include MERANTAU and FOOTSTEPS), THE RAID is one of the best action/martial arts films I’ve seen in a long time. I had heard the buzz beforehand, and went in thinking it would be good, but probably was overrated. But I was wrong. This was a rare case where the movie exceeded my expectations.
Either you like this kind of thing, or you don’t. The way THE RAID unfolds reminded me of a classic John Woo movie (looking back at Hong Kong classics like THE KILLER (1989) and 1992’s HARD BOILED) mixed with fight scenes reminiscent of Bruce Lee’s best movies. If martial arts films are not your bag, and if non-stop fighting and violence turns you off, then THE RAID is clearly not for you. But if you like an action movie that is in perpetual movement, that is to combat what ballet is to dance, then you will leave this one with a smile on your face.
I really enjoyed this one and I guess I have to give it four knives.
© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares
LL Soares gives THE RAID: REDEMPTION ~four knives.