Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Film Review: The Raid

Released in 2011 and directed by Gareth Evans The Raid is an Indonesian martial arts action film starring Iko Uwais.
This fast paced, gore filled, bullet flying, machetefest delivers everything you expect from an action film and more. A feat that many western action films fall drastically short of.
Like a strange mix of Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, Chan-wook's Oldboy and  Monzón Cell 211, along with plenty of its own brilliance, The Raid will fill your evening with skull splintering, kick delivering acrobatics and gunfire  like few others.
We start off with what little we need, 20 well armed cops about to enter a 30 floor apartment block in Indonesia's capital city Jakarta. Their apparent aim is to displace a crime lord who has taken hold of the place. A task that rival gangs, we find out, have failed to do countless times. And from there we begin.
A scene where Tama (Ray Sahetapy), the crime lord, runs out of bullets mid way through executing some men so goes to a draw and finds something other than bullets, and then the way he uses this implement tells you all you need to know about coming film.
The careful raid soon falls apart with cops being slaughtered and deafening automatic weapons fire seeming to never end. Those policemen certainly seemed to take a hell of a lot of ammunition, and large magazines, into that building with them.
Before long we get to what the film is really about with Rama (Uwais), splinted from the few surviving cops, getting down to the gritty necessity of hand to hand combat.
The combat scenes, often set in the narrow corridors of the complex, are stupendously well choreographed and filmed. The camera angles catching every bone crunching body blow, every lacerating knife slash. The scenes flow beautifully. Combine this with an abundance of machetes, combat knives, screams and not a little gore and you have fight scenes worthy of awards.
Not for a long time have I spent an hour and a half with my fist in my mouth muffling the auto-reflex ohhffs and ahhs I bleeted out in response to what is happening on screen.

We learn about the characters not through prolonged dialogue that breaks up the action, but more through their fighting styles and the odd telling comment. We can deduce that Rama is mostly honourable, where as Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) compares killing with a gun to ordering take out. Preferring instead to kill with his bare hands.
But don't let the lack of story through dialogue fool you, there are underlying character stories and you will find yourself wondering about some and getting invested in others.

In all The Raid delivers what you expect, a fast paced martial arts action film, but unlike with so many other martial arts films it's one that keeps you focused to the last with plots and twists weaved throughout. There could have perhaps been a little more focus on some characters. One in particular was left off not far in and then not really considered until the end, but it's nothing film destroying. 
I give The Raid 4 out of 5 stars. 

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