Movie Review: The Raid: Redemption
Indonesian thriller The Raid: Redemption is that rare action film that is a treat to watch. Brutal, visceral, thrilling and gory, Raid is a juggernaut of taut action masterfully delivered to the screen. It’s an exhilarating watch that leaves you breathless from the onslaught of non-stop fighting, and it is awesome. Most films boast a handful of set pieces; The Raid is nothing but one huge set piece. Remarkably, it never wears out its welcome. A flimsy premise is overcome by the film’s sheer audacity and the creativity of director Gareth Evans (Merantou).
An elite police force is sent on a suicide mission: raid a drug lord’s apartment building and wipe him out. Sounds simple, but this is no ordinary apartment building. Tama has created a compound of sorts out of a 15-story building with some very unlikable tenants. The entire place is swarming with thugs and criminals all too willing to do Tama’s bidding. How can a small group of police handle an entire building of miscreants? With guns, knives, machetes, hammers and their bare hands. The men are well versed in martial arts, and use it often.
Every floor presents a new challenge, and there is a claustrophobic feel to the film as the men weave through dimly lit hallways. There’s no telling what awaits them around any given corner. The entire film reminds me of the scene from Kill Bill Volume 1 in which The Bride (Uma Thurman) fights the crazy 88 and lives to tell the tale. The heroes in this story are fighting against ridiculous odds, but they are hardly invincible. They are throttled one by one in very gruesome ways. There is no guarantee that anyone will survive the melee.
Raid is extremely well made. Evans employs some innovative shots that enhance the story, and the choreography of the hand-to-hand combat is astounding. There are also a few unexpected twists to keep you on your toes. A pulsating soundtrack thumps along, effectively adding to the sense of dread.
Much of the action revolves around Rama (Iko Uwais), a rookie cop with a baby on the way. The film opens with Rama tenderly saying goodbye to his wife and patting her belly. The simple scene is in sharp contrast to the badass he proves to be later in the film. Tama (Ray Sahetapy) and his henchmen (Yayan Ruhian and Doni Alamsyah) are a nasty lot of villains. However, the building itself is the most ominous part of the film. The police are at a huge disadvantage because they don’t know the buildings layout, while the tenants use the many hallways and rooms to capitalize on that weakness. In this building, once outsiders come in, they never get out. This complicates things for Rama when he wants to evacuate a severely wounded comrade in the midst of the raid.
Minimal dialogue and maximum action ensure that genre fans will be thrilled. I suspect there will be more than a few converts to the genre as a direct result of this film. The Raid is simply a blast.