Review: The Raid: Redemption
Read Eric Walkuski's review here
PLOT: An elite SWAT team is tasked with capturing an elusive drug lord, who's holed up in a heavily guarded apartment building in Jakarta. Within moments, the crew is spotted, and attacked from all corners of the building by the drug lord's hundreds of minions. With his crew all but wiped out, a junior member of the team (Iko Uwais) is forced to battle his way through the complex in order to make it back to his family in one piece.
REVIEW: Oh hell yes! After missing it at TIFF, I've finally been able to catch up with Gareth Evans' Indonesian action epic, THE RAID. Sony Classics is betting heavily on this one, with the studio going as far as to hire Mike Shinoda of Linkin' Park to compose a slick new score (co-written with Joseph Trapanese). I can see why, as THE RAID is absolutely the best martial arts action film I've seen since the heyday of Hong Kong action. Watching THE RAID at Sundance, I can imagine how festival audiences must have felt in the early nineties watching John Woo films like HARD-BOILED and THE KILLER. Like Woo, Evans takes what could have been a routine potboiler, and infuses it with a shot of nitro glycerine, making this the most badass, bone-crunching action epics you're likely to see for quite some time.
THE RAID runs about 100 minutes, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that at least 85 minutes of that is packed to the rim with every kind of action sequence you can imagine. Initially, THE RAID is a bullet-laden shoot-em' up, but as the SWAT team starts to run out of ammo and weapons they're forced to rely on improvised edged weapons and brawn, and in that regard, star Iko Uwais is one of the most proficient on-screen martial artists since Tony Jaa shot onto the market with ONG BAK.
For my money though, Uwais is even better than Jaa. Like Jaa, he's not particularly brawny, and doesn't carry himself as a badass. Rather, he's a quiet family man, who's simply scared out of his wits and just wants to get home in one piece- and to that end, will take out anyone that's stupid enough to get in his way. I like that kind of regular-guy, understated cool, and it's nice to see an action hero who never resorts to cheesy action hero posing, or one-liners.
Uwais fighting prowess is captured dynamically by Evans, who eschews Hollywood style close-cutting for medium and long-shots, letting us see at all times exactly what's going on. In fact, other than some CGI blood spurts, THE RAID is totally old-school in it's approach. It's pretty obviously inspired by Woo's HARD-BOILED's climatic forty-minute long hospital shootout- albeit stretched out to feature length. The story is pretty simple here, and really just an excuse to stage wall-to-wall balls out action, but I'm not complaining, and neither was the notoriously tough to please Sundance press crowd I saw this with, with lots of cheers and whoops heard through (I also let loose a few “awwwww shiiiiiits”). Apparently, Evans shot this for a ridiculous low budget, but you'd never know it, with it being as polished as any big-budget actioner I've seen recently. Shinoda's score is also really cool, and complements the action beautifully, especially during the climatic 2-on-1 battle with the drug-lord's crazed main henchman.
After the screening, someone else who saw the movie told me that she felt like she needed a Valium, as she got so wound-up by the time it was over. It's really one of those types of balls-out flicks that really does a number on you when you're watching it, as it's like a roller-coaster ride that just won't stop. Frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way, and in between this, DRIVE, and HAYWIRE, maybe we're FINALLY seeing a return to a more stripped down, classic style of action film-making. One thing's for sure, both Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais are guys to watch, and I can't wait to see what they come up with next. In my grade book, this one gets a fuckin' A!
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|Extra Tidbit:||Of course, this will inevitably get a shitty PG-13 remake starring some Hollywood pretty boy. Unless Evans directs it himself, they should just focus on promoting the original. PS: This review was originally posted in January 2012 (Sundance Film Festival).|