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The recent Judge Dredd film featured the 2000AD character fighting his way upwards through a large crime riddled apartment block to get to the crime boss at the top. I remember thinking at the time that it was a great idea, but left a little to be desired in the execution. What I hadn't realised is that this was no unique plot, but that this Indonesian action packed film was sitting there doing the same thing. Now with a sequel to boot, The Raid is just one of a long line of foreign language films that deserve to be watched and promoted, and was enjoyable throughout.
Billed as an action film, it delivered perfectly on its promise. There is a moment early on to try and tug at the heartstrings, as our hero SWAT officer Rama (Iko Uwais) leaves his pregnant wife at home to go and be part of the raiding party on this film's crime riddled apartment block. There's small effort to identify individuals at the beginning of the raid, but as nearly every character is in identical SWAT riot gear there is no real need to do this for a good few minutes.
It doesn't start off as well as planned, and the raiders' number is severely reduced, which gives us an underdog situation of good vs evil as the few raiders work out how to make their way to the top and escape. When the characters start being developed, we get a treat - it's done through the action and fight choreography, which is nothing short of brilliant.
Eastern action films tend to be focused on martial arts, but this has a combination of brutal fighting and martial arts mixed in with fast paced action and attack. The fact that it's all done in a dingy and dirty apartment block with a variety of camera angles, short and wide shots and a healthy dose of bloody and fatal violence means that the element of realism is very much present for the most part of the film. There are a generous dose of villains, and a slight twist in the tale which is somewhat evident from early on but still has a decent impact when it arrives.
The turns from Uwasi as well as villainous henchmen Yayan Ruhian and Donny Alamsyah are very strong, and the action makes this what it is. The enjoyability factor is very high, and it's one of the better modern action films I've seen. If you don't like action and violence, then you probably should steer clear of this film, as that's pretty much what it's about. As long as you like this genre, and you can stomach a few graphic scenes, then I'd be surprised if you didn't enjoy this - it's very well done and represents Indonesian cinema with pride. Recommended.
Every few years there seems to be either one actor or a country which shakes up the martial arts genre and making up for the years in-between were genre fans have had to get by on whatever Direct-to-DVD nonsense that Steven Segal has churned out that month. This is not to say that there haven't been glimmers of hope over the recent years with Donnie Yen finally getting some long over due recognition, as well as the likes of Michael Jai White and to an extent Ray Park certainly doing their part to help revive the flagging genre which many would consider way beyond it's golden days of the 70's and 80's. Certainly with the last noticeable examples in recent memory coming from Thiland, with Panna Rittikrai bringing us the likes of Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak) and JeeJa Yanin (Chocolate). These new breed of Martial Arts superstars coming with a promise of "No Stuntman, No Equal" as they delivered an exciting blend of thrilling stunt work and bone crunching fight scenes.
Now it seems that Indonesia is going to be the next surprising place to find your Martial Arts fix, for "The Raid: Redemption" is not so much the next big thing, but a certified game changer for the genre, for entering into this film even as a veteran of a misspent childhood watching Kung fu movies, I was still blown away by how exhilarating and original a movie that Welsh born and self confessed genre fan director Gareth Evans has crafted here in what was easily one of the big surprises of the 2012 release schedule and despite its limited cinema release back then, it has thankfully been a film folks have discovered on DVD.
The plot is simplistic at best with crime lord Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy) turning the apartment block were he lives into his own personal fortress, by turning it into a safehouse for the city's most dangerous murderers, killers, gangsters and other assorted scumbags and in the process making him untouchable by both his rivals and the police. Still despite this an elite team including rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) and led by the driven Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) have now been despatched to take down Tama once and for all.
With the plot essentially established within the first fifteen minutes, with our hero Rama being given slightly more depth than the other members of the 20 man squad, as we open to him running through his morning prayers as a devout Muslim before engaging in his gruelling training regime to further hone his already impressive martial arts skills, before his kisses his still sleeping and heavily pregnant wife goodbye. It is clear that he is a man trying to do what he can as a cop, to make the world a slightly safer place for his unborn child, with the removal of Tama being another key part of this personal quest.
Entering the building on the ground floor the team have no option to work their way up the building floor by floor, to get to Rama who is for some reason located on the 15th. As to be expected their plans for a covert option are soon thrown out of the window when Rama is alerted to their presence by one of his spotter and offering the tenants free rent to those who kill the SWAT team and in effect mobilising his army of seemingly hundreds. Meanwhile Rama and the others only find their situation worse when they discover that their whole operation has not been sanctioned and meaning that they have no reinforcements or rescue to fall back on.
This film could in many ways be almost be described as a living video game, with it's simple plot and the fact that dialogue kept to minimum, with this film taking the old saying of "Actions speak louder than words" to a whole new level, while each floor the team clears almost feels like a level completed, with the bad guys attacking in disorganized groups, with many of the SWAT team's opponents seemingly taking a number for their beat down as few bother to attack at the same time that another thug is fighting.
Needless to say the fight scenes will be the reason you pay for a ticket to see this film and it pays out in spades as it provides a real showcase for "Silat" the Indonesian martial art style, which focuses on strikes, joint manipulation, throws aswell as the use of bladed weaponry, with the style being used to powerful effect here, especially to western audiences more familiar with the traditional Kung Fu and Kickboxing styles which have been favoured in martial arts movies, while more recent films such as Donnie Yen's "Flashpoint" have seen the introduction of mixed martial arts. It goes without question though that Silat is yet another highly filmable style, as clearly shown here with it use of quick attacks and devastatingly powerful ground based attacks.
The promotion of this indigenous fighting style was a key reason for director Evans to make this movie, as he was looking for a project which he could build upon his fascination of the fighting style and promote it to international audiences with the films original conception as a large scale prison gang movie, only for time restraints to see it scaled down to it's current form, which ultimately has proven to be a great decision with the hallways and shoe box sized apartments bringing a claustrophobic atmosphere to the film, aswell as a real sense of danger to what the SWAT team are facing, especially during the early scenes were they are forced to hole up in a room fighting off a rabid horde of Tama's followers.
The cast are all fantastic with Sahetapy proving himself a powerful mixture of sleazy slumlord and skillful and intelligent tactitian, though sadly not a fighter which would be more disappointing if it was not for Uwais who not only provides a sufficient amount of fight scenes to cover for this anticlimactic encounter and proves himself a star in the making and bringing back memories of Tony Jaa in "Ong-Bak", as he showcases his impressive catalogue of moves, with incredible smoothness aswell as speed, yet still containing a street fighting edge, as fights frequently contain moments of seeming pure improvisation, meanwhile Yayan Ruhian who appears here as head thug "Mad Dog" a man who'd rather beat his opponents with his fists than shoot them, really provides a suitable challenge especially when the big evil of the film isn't a fighter, leaving Mad Dog to handle his fights, which he more than happily does even taking on two opponents at the same time in the climatic fight scene which clocks in at an impressive 15 mins of non-stop fighting which when it had ended was greeted by a rousing round of applause by the audience attending the screening I was at, something I had only experienced twice previously when the mother ship blew up in "Independence day" and the second being when Bruce the shark got blown up in "Jaws", but it is really a credit to the quality of the fight scenes on offer here, that it sparked such feelings in an audience.
Needless to say this film won't appeal to everyone, especially for those of you whom find the prospect of 90+ minutes of pure bone crunching fight scenes, more than a little tiresome, meanwhile genre fans especially those of you who like your martial arts fast and brutal and action relentless will no doubt have a blast and hungry for more.
Star - Gareth Evans
Genre - World Cinema/Action
County - Indonesia
Certificate - 18R
Run Time - 101 minutes
Blockbusters - £3.0
Amazon - £10.99DVD (£11.99 Blue Ray)
The Raid could quite simply be the best action movie you will see this year, a bold claim indeed as it's a low budget subtitled martial arts movie from Indonesian . But the key to its appeal and excellence is director Gareth Evans, he of the rather excellent Monsters, the even lower budget movie made mostly on his lap top and with just five people in the whole crew, two of those the actors, this guy a serious emerging talent. For $70,000 (before promotion) Monsters looked fantastic and incredibly atmospheric and original for what it was, all the best special effects done with off the shelf PC World kit on an Apple Mac in his bathroom, including the striking alien creatures in the film (so CGI sturdy they could walk on their tentacles). I'm pretty certain this guy is the new Spielberg, an amazing filmmaker increasingly giving the big boys tools to make big boys movies and sure to wow us again and again with his unique eye on action and motion. The gossip is he is working on a Sci -Fi project with equally imaginative and creator young director Timur Bekmambetov, he of the rather excellent 'Night Watch', which only means something very special to come.
The Raid sees Evans team up with exciting young actor Iko Uwais (a Jakarta mobile salesman just four years ago), the pair doing a trilogy of sorts together, Merantu (2009) the first film, this Serbuan Maut (The Raid) second and Berandal (2013) third. All are based around the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat and Uwais journey into and working for the Indonesian Special Forces. I can't wait for the final piece of the pie.
Iko Uwais ... Rama
Joe Taslim ... Jaka
Donny Alamsyah ... Andi
Yayan Ruhian ... Mad Dog
Pierre Gruno ... Wahyu
Ray Sahetapy ... Tama
Tegar Satrya ... Bowo
Iang Darmawan ... Gofar
Eka 'Piranha' Rahmadia ... Dagu
Verdi Solaiman ... Budi
Young special forces rookie Rama (Iko Uwais) has been assigned to a 20 strong S.W.A.T team to storm a tower block in a Jakarta slum, a no go zone for regular cops, notorious for being run by a drug lord, Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who controls the block from the fortress top floors through a network of CCTV cameras and loyal lieutenants, Mad dog (Yayan Ruhian) and Andi (Donny Alamsyah) the senior right hand men, the mission to capture Tama and clear the building of the thugs and drugs.
Rama is nervous as he leaves home for his biggest mission yet, his wife eight months pregnant, his father whispering ominous words to 'bring him back', who ever he is, and clearly no ordinary mission for the kid.
Led by chief Watyu (Pierre Gruno) and sergeant Tama (Ray Sahetapy) they take the early floors with ease, prisoners handcuffed, logged and contained, and no casualties for the team, as yet. But kids acting as spotters on the 6th floor alarm the top floor of their assault and chaos breaks out half-way up, announced on the tannoy that any resident that kills a cop will be awarded with free rent and lots of drugs, most residents junkies or criminal types and so more than willing, joined by Tama's legions of machete wielding thugs to drive them on as the onslaught begins. Tama has been waiting for this day and prepared.
With heavy losses on both sides young Rama comes to the fore, surprisingly highly skilled in martial arts and weapons and tactics, leading the fight back for the cops as the body count rises against fearsome fighters, every method of killing men deployed by both sides. But the chief's refusal to call for backup suggests this raid is far from authorized and the less senior cops realize they may not get out of this one alive and so no choice but to battle on to the top floor, Rama determined to get back to his wife and future son in one piece. But it's a surprise twist from the enemy that may keep him alive as his unit is halved and then quartered, literally, as they battle on.
Clear your mind and imagine how you would like to see a man killed, comical or not, and it will be here. This is an amazing adrenaline fuelled action movie and you won't have seen anything like it. Who knew there were so many uses for chopsticks! Every fight scene is beautiful choreographed with a likewise eclectic soundtrack to compliment every 'thudumph' of foot on torso and the whirl of fist to face, as violent as need be to get the right effect and gasp from the audience, which there are plenty, Gareth Evans love of John Woo evident here. Some of the fight sequences are continuous with tracking shots from room to room are impressive to behold, some serious rehearsals going into this. When the bad guys have complete license to kill and no one is looking then why not throw the cops out of the window and pick their eyes out with the tip of a machete. Anything goes here as far as the violence and something to behold on screen, but not in a way that would make you feel ill or need to look away. Blood doesn't normally spurt out of the skull like a fountain but it still looks cool.
The wobbly cameras work well in context as both sides climb and descend the stairs to meet their respective fete, adding extra tension and a sense of increasing anxiety and violence to the films energy as they meet in the middle. Young Iko Uwais is fabulous and a physical marvel in the lead and like a young Jet Li, no less, clearly skilled in the martial arts he practices in the movie. Yes the dialogue and plot is as simplistic as its target South East Asian audience but we are here for the action, high kicks and guns and this gets five out of five for that bit.
It cost around $2 million American dollars to make it and again looks incredible for such a small budget, and not an ounce of fat on it because of that, but doing just $4.1million back to date. The mass western audience seemed to just write it off as another foreign film with subtitles and have missed out on one of the best films of the year because of their ignorance. It's just a privilege to watch this guy's movies, the British Tarantino for sure if not Spielberg yet. DO not miss this film if you like the action genre girls and boys. I promise you lot you will be amazed.
Imdb.com - 7.7/10.0 (48,345 votes)
Metacritc.com - 73% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com -84% critic's approval rating
The Guardian -'The Raid is a film for which the adjective "awesome" might have been invented, but it's so awesomely awesome you might want to teach it some new words'.
New Yorker - 'The movie is a gory free-for-all, a horror film dressed up as an action film, and it's as pure a shot of adrenaline as any Tarantino fan could wish for'
The Los Angeles time -'This adrenaline-fuelled spectacle of flying fists, whirling kicks and spurting blood will leave you breathless, exhilarated and shouting for more'.
Movie Talk -'An action movie so relentlessly exciting and brutal that watching it will leave you feeling black-and-blue and breathless'
The Times -'The stunts, set pieces and overall mayhem can't be faulted. The cast are so energetic, the deaths so silly and the fun so unapologetic that that's enough'.
= = = Special Feature = = =
-Behind the scenes with Gareth Evans-
Standard stuff as we meet cast & crew.
-The Raid 'Fan' Film -
A short version of the film sent in for a fan competition in Akiri style.
A look at the rather odd soundtrack being put together.
A short cartoon version of the film
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