The Raid: Redemption
dir. Gareth Evans
Release Date: Mar 23, 12
In the same way that the Bourne franchise reinvigorated the mainstream action movie after years of stagnation and overreliance on CGI (however briefly), The Raid: Redemption is a blast of hyper-stylized violence for the extreme action set that induces the sort of breathless exhilaration that Bruce Lee’s best work has provided for several generations. Gareth Evans’ film is as streamlined an action vehicle as can be found in a genre too often known for its bloat; accordingly, sticklers for plot and character development need not apply. The Raid is more concerned with fight scenes that boast a staggering level of meticulous choreography, all based around the Indonesian martial arts discipline of Pencak Silat.
The film begins in an armored vehicle, as special forces police steel themselves for a siege on a dilapidated apartment building controlled by Tama (Ray Sahetapy), a drug lord who populates his building with dealers, killers and general criminal degenerates. The squad, led by gruff veteran Jaka (Joe Taslim) and also home to untested rookie Rama (Iko Uwais), intends to break in quietly, move with discretion, capture Tama and leave unscathed. Of course, a momentary slip-up leads to one of Tama’s spotters escaping, which prompts him to issue a decree: Free residence for life in his building to anyone who takes out one of the twenty cops inside. After this, Evans’ film becomes ninety minutes of operatic violence that moves at often alarming speeds.
What distinguishes The Raid from so many of its chopsocky brethren is its comprehension of pace, of how the best action movies have an elegance of flow to them despite the carnage onscreen. Rather than a series of deafening bursts of action that one-up themselves into indifference, the setpieces each have a specific cadence to them that stops the film from falling into too complacent a rhythm. From a twenty-on-one throwdown in a hallway to a brutal one-on-one encounter in an empty apartment to a claustrophobic, nerve-wracking waiting game inside the walls of the building, the film parses out its brutality to immaculate effect. The film also isn’t shy about hard-hitting violence; where films this slick-looking usually feature a lot of gunplay and very little actual impact, this is the most bracingly violent movie since Drive. Bones crack, bodies break over railings and every impact will force even the most jaded viewers to cringe. At no point, though, will they be able to look away.