Genre: Action | Crime
Director: Gareth Evans
Stars: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
I love over-the-top violence in films. I can’t help it. It literally makes me giddy. Now, before you start worrying about my psychopathic tendencies, let’s be clear that it’s only movie violence that brings me to exuberant bliss. If I actually saw someone get shot in the face in real life, I would consider it to be extremely traumatic. But as long as I can watch a film through the veil of understanding that what I’m seeing is pure movie-magic fakery, then I say the more katana swords and corn syrup blood the better.
For years Quentin Tarantino and Takashi Miike have been among my favorite directors for their masterful abilities of depicting the human condition at its most brutal. And then I discovered Gareth Evans [gleeful giggling implied].
The Raid: Redemption is the third action film from Welsh writer/director Gareth Evans. And never has the cliché, “the third time’s a charm” been more apropos. The film was shot over several months in Indonesia and showcases the traditional Indonesian martial art, Pencak Silat. Pre-production took four months just to choreograph the intricate fight sequences and send the primary actors through KOPASKA (Indonesia’s version of the Navy Seals) boot camp to learn strategic SWAT techniques. And the U.S. version even features a musical score by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. Could this film get any more badass? Yes…yes it can.
The plot follows rookie SWAT team member, Officer Rama (Iko Uwais) and his team as they conduct a tactical raid (hence the title) on a Jakarta apartment building run by the sadistic crime lord, Tama (Ray Sahetapy). The team does their best to stealthily navigate each floor, subduing wanted criminal tenants along the way. But once they reach the sixth floor they are spotted by a lookout who sounds the alarm, alerting Tama to their unwelcome visitors. Tama, via the apartment’s PA system, informs his occupants he will grant permanent rent-free residence to anyone who kills any member of the SWAT team. At the end of his merciless offer Tama adds, “Now go to work, and please enjoy yourself”. For the six people who saw Dredd, this is basically the same plot; only The Raid: Redemption is far more enjoyable and came out a year prior. This brief synopsis covers about the first fifteen minutes of the film. From this point on, this film gets medieval on your ass.
Evans used special camera rigs to create a unique hand-held technique (a far cry from the visually bothersome shaky-cam of Blair Witch fame) that gives the viewer the up-close and personal experience of feeling like a member of the SWAT team. And oh what an experience it is. For the next 86 minutes you are immersed in a mind-bending, face-peeling, glorious marathon of action and violence. And it doesn’t stop. Nearly the full 86 minutes contains nothing but jaw-dropping action, punctuated by moments that will make you grab your face in your best Home Alone impression while exclaiming, “Holy fucking shit!”
If you are a fan of martial arts films and you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Pencak Silat on display, you are in for a visual orgasm. As much as I recognize Bruce Lee as a martial arts god and pioneer of the genre, quite frankly The Raid: Redemption makes Enter The Dragon look like a game of ro-sham-bo. For those of us who cut our martial arts teeth on films like Rumble in the Bronx, The Matrix, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we have come to expect stunning visuals of our heroes implementing techniques that are – seemingly – physically impossible. It’s on this point that this movie does not disappoint. I should also point out that unlike The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, there is no wire work during the fight scenes in The Raid: Redemption. Let your brain wrap around that every time you see a body hurled through the air in an impressive display of strength and agility.
If you’re not a fan of violence in films, perhaps we should part ways and I’ll leave you to your rom-coms and Shirley Temple marathons. However, if machete-wielding marauders and head-cracking, knife-fighting action puts a tingle in the base of your spine, then this is the best thing since karate chopped bread. This movie may not be perfect, but where The Raid: Redemption falls short on plot and character development, it makes up for by opening one glorious 50 gallon drum of whoop-ass.