The Raid: Redemption (Movie Review)

The Raid, what to say about The Raid? Well first off the most important thing to say is that this film is not for the faint hearted. The second thing would be that the film is a master class of its genre. Now that might sound strange when said about an action film based solely around a team of Indonesian Police; raiding a single tower block home to a ruthless drug lord and his legions of killers, rapists and gangsters. You may be thinking to yourself, 'surely this is just another explosion filled; shoot ‘em up, violence fest?' Well you would be right, but at the same time you could not be more wrong. While The Raid may have its share of explosions, hallway shooting galleries and the more than frequent hand to hand fight scene, what The Raid also has is an intensity and a sense of tension that is rarely found in most modern day action thrillers.

The Raid is directed by Gareth Evans and starring Iko Uwais. The film centres around an elite squad of Indonesian SWAT members. Their mission is to enter and capture all residents of a single tower block deep within the slums of Jakarta; this block has been attacked multiple times by rival gangs looking to claim territory and every time they have been repelled by the forces that call the tower home. This is Uwais’ and Evans’ second project together, the first being a fairly unknown film called Merantau. Both films centre their action around the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat.

The film pulls no punches when it comes to brutality and wastes absolutely no time getting to it. The fights between police and gangsters start thick and fast with very little respite throughout, creating an atmosphere of pure adrenaline. However despite the film being almost solely action orientated it is still entirely possible to feel a connection to, at the very least, the central characters, most notably the rookie cop (Uwais) and the squad leader ‘Sergeant Jaka’. The film lays an incredibly heavy emphasis of the fear of all the members of the police squad and it is made very clear from the onset that these men are not superheroes and are definitely afraid of the all too real danger they are in. It is this sense of danger that gives the film one of its most important qualities, namely the tension. Whereas most action films centre solely on the visual to stimulate (such as explosions, gunfights etc.), The Raid uses the palpable fear to keep the viewer on seat edge. The sheer terror of their situation is made evident very early on; we are immediately made aware that the man they are messing with is a man not to be messed with.

The fight scenes as you can imagine are based largely on close quarter’s combat, due to the pivotal role of the martial arts being showcased. This does not mean however that this is the only source of excitement on display, as there are more than a few highly visceral gunfights between the opposing sides. These gunfights are very expertly done, every bullet taken, every shot fired can be felt. This is largely down to the extremely talented sound and camera work used. The angles are all close-up in nature, giving the impression that rather than being an observer you are one of the squad members and the sounds simply compounds this effect by giving every shot heightened punch with added volume. The camera work is also highly varied with an entire scene being filmed in one over the shoulder shot. This use of inventive filming is brought about due a limitation in space because of the environment. Most of the film is shot from inside the tower meaning that there are no large scale set pieces and all fighting is intimate and real. As for how far the film was willing to take the graphic content, a very well balanced compromise has been found. There are more than a few scenes featuring what could be called hardcore violence however these are kept in check by a conservative use of blood and gore. This does not mean the film feels restrained in its violence; in fact the opposite effect is achieved, without gratuitous use of such effects it doesn’t venture into the realms of absurdity or cringe worthiness. Instead every hit feels real, painful and weighty. This is not an action film that makes you sit back and cheer as the good guys knock the villains on their arses; this is a film where every bad guy they take down is a relief, an exhale but not a chance to rest or relax.

The film ends with a satisfying if somewhat abrupt conclusion. There is no enormous twist at the end to turn everything on its head but there are enough reveals further in to keep you hooked if the action alone wasn’t enough. The conclusion is satisfying, though feels quite muted in comparison to the rest of the film. All characters are well rounded even though they may be seen as simple, and each role is owned greatly by its respective performer. The Raid is definitely an action film worth your time. The film is shot in its original Indonesian language, however subtitles are provided, but if that still puts you off, don’t worry, as dialogue isn’t enormously plentiful, and most of the scenes are fighting set pieces. When there is dialogue (though it’s definitely not to be disregarded) pay especial attention to any scenes involving the drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy). 

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