High-kicking, head-bangingly brilliant action.
Every few years, or so, the action genre gets a shot of adrenaline in the arm. Something to spark inspiration and bring about a new trend in the genre. Whether it’s the quick fire dialogue of Shane Black’s Lethal Weapon, the bullet-time majesty of The Matrix or the kinetic hand-held set pieces of The Bourne Supremacy, action is a genre that is constantly evolving. Well the next evolution is here and like the mutants of X-Men it’s got claws, teeth and all manner of vicious pointy things with which to maul the genre on the spot.
Rama (Iko Uwais) is a good cop in a bad city. His wife is expecting their first child. But today he is part of a SWAT team who are going on a dangerous mission. They must infiltrate a high-rise apartment block to capture god of the underworld Tama (Ray Sahetapy). The problem is the building he lives in has become a stronghold in which Tama rules from the top floor and all the occupants obey him in order to live under his protection. When the team’s cover is blown they are separated and picked off one by one. Rama, determined to get as many of his colleagues out alive must do whatever it takes to fight his way through this nightmare.
Director Gareth Evans, inspired films such as John Woo’s Hard Boiled andLuc Besson’s Leon, has a clear aesthetic in mind in executing The Raid. It’s gritty, dirty and brutal. The walls are grey, the tower block a filthy monolith of doom. There is no gloss of Neo’s Matrix, no suave of Bond and certainly no wise cracks of Riggs and Murtaugh. The Raid is violent. But in a delightfully indulgent manner. Every throat slit, bone crack, head thump and blood splatter will have you both wincing and smiling with enjoyment.
Sure the plot is minimalistic, although there is hint of one involving Rama and one of Tama’s henchmen Andi (Donny Alamsyah), and often plays out like acomputer game; give Rama an enemy and watch him dispatch them until it’s onto the next. But The Raid contains some of the most blistering and prolonged action scenes you’re ever likely to see. The fights are choreographed to perfection, allowing you to see every impact going. There’s no editing tricks here, but rather fights that are so visceral you can practically smell the cordite from the guns and taste the blood from the wounds.
But what makes The Raid so hopelessly fun is its inventive ways of dispatching bad guys. There is no limit to which Evans will not go. Death by door, death by fridge, death by wall, hell there’s even death by light bulb. Evans is clearly and action movie junky and it shines through. The Raid is a thrill ride from beginning to end. Bullets ricochet, fists fly and heads crumble so hard into walls you cannot help but imagine medics were called as regularly on set as they are in Starship Troopers.
What is more Evans has unearthed a true action gem in the diminutive form of Iko Uwais. Forget Jason Statham, Van Damme, and all The Expendables, Uwais could take them all and still come up smiling. He’s a wild ball of fury, a Tasmanian Devil of fists and kicks just waiting to be unleashed on the nearest bad guy. But he does it all with dogged determination, as opposed to slick moves to look cool. His fights are just as bruising on him as they are on the opposition, and indeed the audience for that matter. As such, combined with his boyish looks, he’s the ultimate hero upon which to hang your story.
The Raid is one of the year’s best. A film which already has a sequel in the works, not to mention no doubt countless filmmakers trying to rip it off, and will punch its way into your ultimate kick-ass movie list. Evans and Uwais are true action forces to be reckoned with and if there is any justice in the world will go on to great big explosions of action brilliance.