The Raid: Redemption

Dir: Gareth Evans
Star: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Ray Sahetapy, Pierre Gruno

Trash City
Top 10: 2012
I can only admire the absolutely straightforward approach taken by this Indonesian action film - I think it's also the first movie I've seen from that country, even if the director is (as his name implies) more Welsh than anything. It depicts a raid, carried out by a small group of police officers on a dilapidated tower block which has been taken over by crime kingpin Tama Riyada (Sahetapy). The 20-man squad is under the command of Lieutenant Wahyu (Gruno), but it's not long before the element of surprise is lost, and the cops find themselves pinned down and decimated. It also turns out that this was not an officially sanctioned mission, so there will be no reinforcements coming to help them. Rama (Uwais) is one of the few survivors, leading the fight with his brutal skills in local martial art pencak silat, as they make their way, floor by floor and room by room, up to the top where Tama Riyada is located.

That's pretty much it.I don't think I've seen a movie more closely ape the structure of a video-game, with the hero having to beat up all the inhabitants of a literal level, in order to progress to the next one, where nastier opponents can be found. Why not just take the lift to the top? Well, where's the fun in that? For what viewer would watch someone in an elevator, rather than ploughing his way through some of the most brutal, yet inventive, martial-arts fight sequences I've seen in a long time? The choreography was by Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, who is also in the film as Riyada's main enforcer, the appropriately named “Mad Dog”, and is matched perfectly by Evans' direction and editing, which knows exactly where to move the camera, without confusing the action, interrupting the flow or needing to hide the actors' physical shortcomings.

Sure, the plotting and characterization is about the level of a martial-arts video-game as well: entirely functional, and extending not much further than Rana patting the belly of his pregnant wife, 'cos he's a loving father, see? There's nothing which would bring him up to the level of, say, John McClane or Ellen Ripley, in terms of the properly-rounded heroes who inhabit the very tip of the action pyramid. But in terms of pure, undiluted kickassishness, what we get from Uwais here is up there with anything the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen or Tony Jaa have ever delivered. And while normally, I'm not a fan of US studios fiddling with overseas films for release (hello Miramax and Shaolin Soccer), even I have to admit Mike Shinoda's throbbing electronic score works incredibly well. All told, it makes for an immensely entertaining package: 2012 has had some great action films, but The Raid has to be among the very best.

[November 2012]

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