In the slums of Jakarta, a small police team go on a dawn raid to take down a notorious gang leader in a dilapidated apartment complex. But their incursion doesn’t stay
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, in a silver mine, without Wi-fi for the last six months, you’ve likely already caught more than a whisper about Indonesian action movie The Raid
. You may have heard it’s very violent, you’ve probably noticed the avalanche of overwhelmingly positive reviews and you may even have noted that many are calling it the best action film of the decade, if not even a new chapter in the genre.
It is certainly some of these things.The Raid
(or The Raid: Redemption
as it is called in the states) is first of all a curious beast. It’s the third film directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans
– following on from micro-budget thriller called Footsteps
which he made on his home turf before relocating to Indonesia where he became interested in local martial art silat
and conjured up Merantau
– which focussed on showcasing the skills of performer Iko Uwais.The Raid
’ third film and was made for just over $1 million, and was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics
long before it was even finished – before hitting cinemas around the world to massive critical acclaim.
Heady production stories are all well and good but how does the film actually measure up? Pretty brilliantly.The Raid
takes its meagre plot and gives the audience a single, comprehensible location and a small number of stock characters with which to create utter carnage. The opening is purposefully calm and grounded, with the tension rising superbly through a terse mission briefing and into the apartment building itself. There, Evans
moves his players from floor to floor, cinching the tension tighter and tighter until it explodes.
The action kicks off with a beautifully realised moment of slow motion gunplay which sets up the violent tone as well as showcasing the surprising slickness which sets it apart from just another non English language action fest. Evans
has clearly been inspired by John Woo
for his ballistic set pieces and they’re a joy to behold, particularly as it’s been so long since we’ve seen a thrilling gun fight on screen.
But most of the attention has been paid to the films martial arts sequences, and rightly so. They were choreographed with the help of lead Uwais
and co-star Yayan Rhuian
(who plays the memorable Mad Dog) and use a variety of locations, fighting styles and some shocking and inventive kills to amp up the awesome to almost unbearable levels.
You may have caught a glimpse of the hallway fight online but the real thing is even longer (and nastier) and it’s just one of a half dozen genuinely epic small scale, expertly built conflicts. Evans
knows how to present a slick and well choreographed action scene but he also has a strong understanding of the right beats to hit to keep an audience enthralled. The fights are punctuated by moments of perfectly timed ultraviolence which drew exclamations from the crowd, letting them share in the wicked thrill of the carnage.Evans
have crafted something very special with The Raid
and while it doesn’t reinvent the action genre it uses a basic and well wrought premise as a frame for some of the best high octane moments we’ve seen in years, coupled with a commitment to bloodshed which many (me included) will find riotously entertaining.
At 101 minutes, The Raid
might be a touch too long, with some story elements that outstay their welcome and those unused to martial arts films may find some of the action scenes (particularly the climactic battle) a little wearying. But for those who are increasingly frustrated by the paucity and thin-blooded nature of modern action cinema, this one’s for you.