The Raid: Redemption is the type of hyper-violent action film that makes grown men wince (and then chuckle) and their girlfriends and wives wince, roll their eyes (and then wonder what is wrong with men?!). Yes, guys, it’s that good.
Directed by Gareth Evans, a Welshman currently based in Indonesia, The Raid: Redemption is the second film by Evans to star Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais and feature the traditional Indonesian martial art of Pencak silat. Judging from the film, I can only assume “Pencak silat” translates roughly as, “No children for you!”
The plot is simple. Rookie policeman Rama (Uwais) is part of a 20-man assault squad attempting to stealthily enter an apartment building and arrest the ruthless crime lord who controls it. Things begin to go wrong as soon as the squad makes it too far in to retreat. (For the audience, this translates to about the 10-minute mark.) From there, all hell breaks loose—and stays really, really loose—the rest of the way as Rama tries to survive the waves of gun-toting, machete-wielding and generally inhospitable building inhabitants trying to kill him.
Though the cop-versus-building-full-of-homicidal-criminals premise will cause some to compare The Raid: Redemption with Die Hard, it’s really a disservice to both films. Whereas Die Hard is laced throughout with humor (sometimes grim), The Raid is humorless (wince-then-chuckle moments from the male viewing audience aside)—there’s simply too much whuppin’ to be done to spare any moments for comic relief. Die Hard is as much a character study as an action flick; The Raid is a study of all the places on a human body one can shoot, stab and punch.
It’s in this “study” that the film leaves a mark. Though its fight sequences are hardly exercises in gritty realism, they nonetheless possess a rawness—a tendency toward fatality—that’s not often seen on the Big Screen. These characters are grown men trained (or at least extremely willing) to kill, and they are trying to kill each other. So when a momentary advantage immediately translates to a killing blow or shot, it’s a refreshing change. (These moments are especially common in the first half of the film while there are still plenty of bodies on both sides to hit the floor.) What’s more, it creates a sense of imminent mortality that puts the viewer on edge in a way the Jason Bourne films can never do. (Rama might be as safe as Bourne or even Bond—but it certainly doesn’t feel that way.)
As for flaws, it’s hard to find many in The Raid: Redemption without resorting to a questioning of the value of the genre in general—and the excessive violence in particular. Sure, there are some mid-fight moments when the action ventures dangerously close to WWE-style theatrics (of the “I’m limping because my spleen hurts!” variety). And though it’s well established that action heroes have superhuman powers of durability and recovery, Uwais’ downright sprightly stair climbing toward the end was a source of some unintentional humor for the audience. (Apparently, Rama’s an inexhaustible anaerobic exercise machine.)
But these are just quibbles. Considered on its own merits and judged by how well Evans and Uwais do what they set out to do, The Raid: Redemption delivers. Besides, there’s really just not much to be said against a film that blows up so many people using a refrigerator.
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Starring:Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
Release Date: Mar. 23, 2012 (limited)