Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Gareth Evans
Stars: Iko Uwais, Doni Alamsyah, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian, Joe Taslim, Pierre Gruno, Verdi Solaiman, Ananda George.
From Indonesia comes this adrenaline-fuelled, extremely violent, action packed and hyper-energetic martial arts movie that offers a variation on the siege thriller. It’s not surprising that The Raid has taken the world by storm, especially given the rather bland and generic nature of much of the action films from Hollywood recently (films like The Losers, The Expendables, The A Team, etc). It’s doubtful that you will see a more ruthless, relentless or exciting action film this year!
A heavily armed SWAT squad attacks a squalid Jakarta tenement block that is home to a ruthless local drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy). The raid is led by Jaka (Joe Taslim), a corrupt cop who has his own reason for bringing down Tama. Part of the squad is honest rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais, a popular martial arts star in his homeland) who has a heavily pregnant wife waiting for him at home. The team plan to bring Tama down one way or another, but it quickly turns into a suicide mission.
The paranoid Tama has also rented out rooms to other various villains, and he unleashes them on the invaders. He cuts off the power and isolates the team. As they fight their way from floor to floor the cops find their numbers diminished in a bloody war of attrition.
The action of The Raid seems to follow the template of a video game. The stairwells, corridors and grubby little apartments become blood-soaked battlegrounds. Machetes, heavy weaponry, fists and even household items become lethal weapons in the ensuing mayhem and carnage. But amid the orgy of violence and blood letting there is also room for character development, as we learn of an unexpected relationship between Rama and Tama’s henchman Andi (Doni Alamsyah), who turns out to be his estranged brother.
Welsh born director Gareth Hue Evans became fascinated with the martial arts known as pencak silat while shooting the low budget action film Merantau in Indonesia a few years ago. He has structured the action sequences here around that fighting discipline. This is a gritty, edgy, relentlessly paced and intense action film that is like Die Hard on speed or John Carpenter’s classic Assault On Precinct 13 as directed by John Woo.
Evans has carefully choreographed all of the brutal fight scenes with his stars Uwais and Sahetapy, who are both adepts at this form of martial arts and who also worked with Evans on Merantau. Uwais has a credible physical presence and dexterity in the many fight sequences. The fight scenes themselves are visceral, ferociously convincing, fast, and well staged in the claustrophobic setting. The action is accompanied by an appropriately throbbing and driving score from Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal.
The film has been fluidly shot by Evans and his regular cinematographer Matt Flannery, using hand held cameras to good effect. Evans himself has edited the film in kinetic but fluid style that shows just how clumsy and incomprehensible most Hollywood fight scenes are in comparison. The end credits list a number of medical personnel and massage therapists, which hints at the punishing nature of the film itself.
The Raid is a lean, mean action film that pushes the envelope of screen carnage, and there is very little flab in its tight structure. It is quite a gruelling experience that will leave its audience feeling physically drained as well! A Hollywood remake is already planned, although one suspects that the kinetic energy and violence will somehow be toned down.