The Raid: Redemption is exactly the kind of great time at the movies you never saw coming. It’s a killer tornado of as flying fists, whirling kicks and slicing machetes held together by a minimalist plot with a few intriguing twists and tension-building complications.
Already a hit on the festival circuit (where it was the hot ticket at various midnight-movie series), The Raid: Redemption is now being pushed as an action classic, and for good reason, it’s exactly the kind of backbreaking, bracing, bewitching movie that fans of high-octane filmmaking should not miss out on.
Shot in Indonesia, by Welsh-born writer-director-editor Gareth Evans (Merantau) the film starts out with some very spare exposition that sets out the do-or-die mission we’re about to see unfold. A SWAT team arrives at a crumbling apartment building to arrest a crime boss named Tama (Ray Sahetapy). The building is well-secured and filled with Tama’s henchmen including his sidekicks, criminal mastermind Andi (Doni Alamsyah) and a wiry little sadist named Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian, who acted as co-fight coordinator with the film’s star Iko Uwais).
On the team is rookie cop with a heart of gold (and a pregnant wife at home), Rama (Uwais) who desperately wants to make it through this mission alive so he can see his son born.
Unfortunately for him, things start to take a turn for the worse once the team breaks into the building and begin to systematically sweep each floor on their way up to Tama’s 15th floor lair. It seems that the place is full of surveillance cameras, the cops are heavily outnumbered (by maniacal killing machine-type building residents who’ve been promised free rent for life if they help off the intruders) and there are no reinforcements on the way. Their only choice is to fight, destroy and kill their way through the onslaught, hoping to break back out of a building that’s now on total lockdown.
Sure there are no well written, non-cookie cutter characters, and most of the dialogue consists of grunts expelled while someone kicks the crap out of someone else, but somehow The Raid still manages to be completely riveting.
For one, the fight choreography is mind-bendingly spectacular. Body parts twist into unbelievably peculiar positions and Evans takes care to shoot the action head-to-foot so we don’t miss a second of it, dancing around the actors in perfect sync with their kicks and chops. It serves to make these scenes even more kinetic and adrenaline-inducing.
Uwais and Ruhian are especially fantastic to watch: they’re lithe and acrobatic, and star in some virtuoso set pieces that are both hide-your-eyes gory and can’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-screen stunning to behold.
Evans’ script is taut and effective (if a little trite in one of its twists), keeping the story simple but making sure the atmosphere is claustrophobic and tense, never letting our hero off the hook for even a minute. It’s all brought together by a brilliant, pulsating score that perfectly highlights the ballet-like fight scenes.
In short, if you’re an action movie lover you should plan to make a new slot on your top 10 list for The Raid: Redemption.