“The Raid: Redemption” Movie Review


    There was something that drew me to “The Raid: Redemption” and even after viewing it, I still feel a sense of exhilaration.  Maybe I’m still catching my breath.  The film is an Indonesian import directed by Gareth Evans and comes billed by some critics as “The best action movie in decades!”  That, of course, is debatable, but this low budget art house offering has plenty of gas in its tank.  “The Raid” lets loose a new action set piece about every two minutes, leaving just enough time for the characters to converse and in some way connect the audience to the next action sequence.  To review this film likely means I have to let go many of the criteria I would normally apply.  You just can’t knock a film for the lack of characters you actually will care for or any real story when you come out of the film shadow boxing in the hallway of the theater.  I was amped by the end and this has to mean the filmmakers did something right.

     The plot is cut to the chase simple.  If you’ve seen the trailer than you already know the set up and there is literally nothing else to it.  We briefly meet Rama (Iko Uwais) long enough to watch him workout, hit the heavy bag, kiss his pregnant wife goodbye, and head off to work.  The film immediately cuts to a SWAT team in the back of a van.  There’s about 20 of them and they’re armed and ready.  When they arrive at their destination, they are met by their superior who tells them there is a crime lord at the top of a 30 story building they need to arrest.  The order is given to go and the next 90 minutes are dedicated to what the team encounters as they move floor to floor.

     The crime lord is immediately established as a worthy and nefarious villain in a quick scene before the SWAT team enters.  We’re never told why, but he has five men who are on their knees bound and gagged in his 30th floor hideaway, who he then proceeds to execute in brutal fashion.  This scene serves one purpose and that’s to let the audience know this guy will deserve everything he and his thugs have coming to them later.  Villains are crucial and “The Raid” is loaded with them.

     As the team methodically enters the building and works its way up floor to floor, they soon realize the entire interior is under video surveillance.  Once alerted to their presence, the crime lord comes over the intercom system and tells the buildings tenants to kill the unwanted visitors, offering free lifetime rent to those who are successful.  From that point, it’s on.  Non stop bullets, knives, sticks, machetes, knees, elbows, and fists thrown at a break neck pace.  The action only stops so the main characters can catch their collective breath and then simply moves on to the next showdown.

     In one scene, one of the lead bodyguards for the crime lord has a hallway altercation with the SWAT Sergeant that ends with the bodyguard pulling a handgun and the Sergeant a knife. Rather than shooting the Sergeant, the bodyguard motions the cop into a nearby room.  He then proceeds to unload his weapon and lay it on the table while exclaiming “Pulling the trigger is like ordering takeout.”  He prefers a straight up fight and the two battle to the death behind closed doors.  This is just one of at least fifty or so martial arts fights in the film. 

     I would think any martial artist would certainly appreciate the technique on display here.  There are combinations of Muay Thai, Filipino Knife, Judo, and SWAT weapons tactics on full display.  Yes, the action is quite like a video game where it seems the adversaries come one at a time rather than all at once for the convenience of the hero, but the choreography is flawless and at times breathtaking.  The stunt team must’ve had a blast making this film.  I was constantly reminded of some of John Woo’s Hong Kong “Bullet Ballets” as they were called like “Hard Boiled” and “The Killer”, while also seeing a lot of influence from some of Jet Li’s Hong Kong films like “Fist of Legend.”  With “The Raid”, it was as if you had the best parts of those films combined into one.

     As I said earlier, it’s difficult to apply my usual standards here because this film is unlike most I’ve seen.  While I subtract because of it’s lack of story, dialogue (it’s subtitled by the way), and character development, I applaud it for it’s daring and the willingness to push the envelope on a genre American filmmakers like Michael Bay can’t even get right.  You get the idea Gareth Evans was meticulous on how every move was filmed, ensuring pinpoint accuracy.  The result had my heart rapidly beating for an hour and a half and made feel like I wanted to kick someones ass the second it was over.  GRADE: B-