Mad Dog Puts Down the Gun in The Raid: Redemption
The Raid: Redemption is a bit of shaky entry here, since it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 before getting its theatrical release this year, but on the grounds that it is a very good film, it will be included anyway.
The piece as a whole is extremely violent, particularly during its last third, where heroic SWAT officer Rama has to face off against increasingly vicious, increasingly competent foes. But none of that violence ever feels gratuitous; Rama and his squad mates are trapped, without any weapons or back-up in an entire building that is hostile to them.
Tama, the crime lord they need to capture, is both vicious and charismatic enough to set every single goon in the building who can fight against the few survivors of the initial massacre. With no way out beyond capturing Tama and using him to ensure safe passage, Rama and company need to fight all out if they are to have any hope of survival.
Beyond that, The Raid: Redemption also serves as a showcase for the Indonesian martial art Silat. The fights featuring it do get very brutal, but there is a real grace to the way Rama and his fellow practitioners spin and bend. Director Gareth Evans makes a point of highlighting it via methods as varied as tracking shots of Rama as he fights his way through a corridor full of Tama’s men and the scene that earned The Raid: Redemption its place on this list.
When Tama’s chief enforcer Mad Dog captures Jaka, Rama’s superior officer, he has the chance to simply execute him and be done with it. Instead, Mad Dog goads Jaka into a vacant apartment at gunpoint. But rather than shoot Jaka, Mad Dog sets his gun down and explains that “pulling the trigger is like ordering takeout.” The real satisfaction in killing someone for him is found in a duel to the death with only the human body for a weapon. That explained, he and Jaka face off.
The ensuing fight is an exercise in contrasts. Jaka uses Judo, and Mad Dog Silat. Jaka is precise, and Mad Dog is as wild as his name suggests. Jaka fights for his life, and Mad Dog for fun. Rama, though absent, is also contrasted. His Silat is graceful, and based around responding to his enemy’s own movements. Mad Dog’s Silat is above all else offensive, and aimed at dominating the fight from the first punch thrown to the killing blow. He kills Jaka after wearing him down, and despite taking a few hard hits, only loses control of the fight briefly.
Beyond establishing that Mad Dog is a legitimate threat, the fight serves to develop his character. From his twisted reasoning for why fighting to the death is fun to the relentless way he moves, the audience learns a good deal about who Mad Dog is from his act of violence. It is an excellent example of a kind of physical acting that is not often seen these days, and the violence of it is instrumental to it working as well as it does. Mad Dog is a violent man in a violent world. How better to learn about him than to see him participate in it?
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