The Raid: Redemption (2011) / Action-Thriller

MPAA rated: R for strong, brutal, bloody violence throughout, and language
Length: 101 min.

Cast: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy
Director: Gareth Evans
Screenplay: Gareth Evans
Review published January 12, 2013

The Raid: Redemption 2011The 'raid' of the title refers to a police sting operation on a 30-floor tenement building in the heart of Jakarta's slums, in Indonesia, by a squad of 20 armed and helmeted SWAT police officers. Once they break inside, they're stuck inside, while the drug dealer who resides on the 15th floor, Tama (Sahetapy, Terowongan Casablanca), orders his thugs to take them down, as well the tenants inside the building, many of him are users or dealers working with Tama, to put a stop to the cops in exchange for free rent for life.

Iko Uwais (Merantau) plays one of the SWAT team members, a rookie named Rama, perhaps the best of them when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. While the rest of the trained men are very skilled themselves, he soon finds himself nearly fighting alone when Tama's men end up decimating the team with a seemingly endless storm of bullets and bloodshed, while Tama has blocked all avenues of escape. In order to get out, they're going to have to survive, and take out any trying to kill them, including Tama himself.

The Raid: Redemption is the brainchild of writer-director Gareth Evans (Merantau, Footsteps), who delivers one of the most robust, bloody, brutal, but exceedingly well-developed martial arts action movies in years. It's similar to the violence quotient of such things as John Woo's Hard Boiled, the martial arts exhilaration of Ong Bak, as well as the "every thug vs." premise of the Die Hard films, only with much better fight choreography. The plot is as basic as it gets, and very little in the way of the actual storyline will wow viewers. Sometimes it isn't what you way, but the way you say it that counts. With the help of an energetic score, the film delivers a very potent payload.

The Raid: Redemption isn't for all viewers. It is very violent, so much so that squeamish viewers will probably find themselves looking away whenever certain weapons (such as machetes) end up in the hands of either good guys or bad guys, as people get cut quite often and bleed profusely. It looks like it hurts, and hurts like hell, but that's a good thing in terms of keeping audiences engaged with the nastiness of the situations. It is visceral and in your face.  If you abhor violence, especially in gratuity, do not, under any circumstances, watch this, as it borders unrelenting, and is often unforgiving. 

It's not all mindless violence, though. There are moments when things get quiet, which ratchets up the tension. In one scene, Rama and a wounded comrade are hiding behind a hollowed out wall partition, as one of the bad guys begins to plunge his machete in various places through to see it he can strike a body. But the highlights of the film are definitely when things cut completely loose, such as seeing Rama take down a whole hallway full of villains, or when Yayan Ruhian, playing Tama's right-hand henchman, takes on two good guys at once in perhaps the film's most intense sequences.

If you're a die-hard action fan, you'll likely be ecstatic at seeing one of the most exciting, albeit viciously violent, genre examples of the last few years. Some may carp at the lack of elaborate dialogue and Evans' overuse of 'shaky cam' techniques, others will be turned off by the sheer amount of graphic violence just for violence's sake.  To say this would deny the artistic qualities of the martial arts genre, as this isn't just people's brains being blown out or limbs being lopped off to showers of blood just for prurience's sake.  This kind of film takes skill, and a lot of it, in order to work.  If you find yourself riveted to the screen, on edge whenever a cop encounters a horde of bad guys with murder on their minds, it's working.  If the violence makes you flinch in your chair, it's working.  It's not Oscar-caliber material, but for those who can appreciate a complicated all-out martial arts melee that never misses a step, some which are done in single shots, you're the right audience.  The Raid packs a powerful visceral punch.

-- Followed by The Raid 2 (2014)

Qwipster's rating:

©2013 Vince Leo