Old 04-12-2012, 10:06 PM
Gareth Evans's The Raid: Redemption

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



The Raid: Redemption (2012)

“The Raid: Redemption” is a non-stop action film that is filled with wall-to-wall martial arts, gunfire, and blood. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it weren’t for the complete lack of any reason to care about anything going on in the film. The main reason that it seems to have been made is as a showcase for as many fight scenes as the filmmakers could fit into its brief running time of about 90 minutes. Apparently the plot was merely an afterthought.

It tells the story of a SWAT team, which includes Rama (Iko Uwais) and Jaka (Joe Taslim), who are tasked with raiding a building known to house criminals looking to lay low. Their key objective is to arrest the leader, Tama (Ray Sahetapy), but doing so will not be easy as almost immediately upon their arrival, residents notify the rest of the building of their presence. With the team vastly outnumbered, they must use any means necessary to accomplish their mission.

It’s really quite amazing how little plot this film had. In fact, that has to be one of the shortest, if not the shortest, synopsis I’ve ever had to write for a film. This is a film that was obviously made for fans of action, but it also becomes a kind of test to see how quickly you become bored when you realize that there’s not going to be anything else in the film, i.e., anything of substance that might give you a reason to care.

The characters here are completely flat and are merely present as fodder for the various fight scenes. They die left and right, eventually coming down to just a few, which I suppose we’re supposed to call the “main characters,” but the complete lack of development prevents us from creating any attachment to them or from caring about whether they will be the next to get killed in one gruesome fashion or another.

The film is indeed violent, but again that’s not a problem. The problem is that there’s nothing here to get the audience engaged in any way. It was only about 30 minutes in when I started checking my watch to see when this tedious film would end. It got to the point where I would just roll my eyes when yet another fight scene started, usually less than a minute after the previous one had just finished.

It even makes a rather sad attempt to throw in a bit of drama when one of the characters randomly discovers that his brother is living in the building. This came off as nothing but a desperate attempt by writer/director Gareth Evans to get the audience to feel something for them while continuing to inundate us with more and more fights. If they had tried to develop it earlier and more throughout, it might have helped, but they apparently didn’t want to take up to much time with it.

The critical reception of the film has been quite baffling and hypocritical. Like with the recent “Wrath of the Titans,” I was again reminded of the second and third Transformers films, which were critically bashed for having very little in the way of plot and containing a numbing amount of action, among other things. Yet, “The Raid: Redemption” suffers from the same problems and has been praised by a good majority of critics. Granted the action is done better, but it’s not nearly enough to cover up the complete lack of substance.

In the end, “The Raid: Redemption” will be most successful for people with A.D.D. or just generally short attention spans. Others will be able to look right through it and see it for what it really is: a film about one group of people trying to kill another group of people with a thread of a plot as an excuse for it to happen, but then again, that seems to be why certain people are enjoying it. Anyone looking for a film where the filmmakers actually took time to put together a story will just have to look elsewhere. 2/4 stars.
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