Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Producer: Ario Sagantoro
Cast: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Setrya, Ray Sahetapy, Eka “Piranha” Rahmadia, Verdi Solaiman, Ananda George
Running Time: 101 min.
Like most martial arts buffs, I was a fan of writer/director Gareth Evans’ and star Iko Uwais’ first collaboration, 2009′s “Merauntau.” But as good as that movie was – and it certainly had its bone-breaking highlights – there was little in it to suggest that the duo were capable of something like “The Raid.”
This film arrives with what feels like a year’s worth of Internet buzz, ever since it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011. Sony has finally begun to trickle “The Raid” out into theaters nationwide, now with a soundtrack from Linkin Park member Mike Shinoda, and I’m pleased to report that “The Raid” lives up to the fever of hype surrounding it. This is the movie that we action fans didn’t even know we were craving.
Gareth Evans and company have managed to combine the relentless bloodsplatter of a vintage John Woo film like “Bullet to the Head” with the kind of intensely choreographed, exhausting-just-to-watch fight choreography we would expect after “Merantau.” But there is also a level of brutality here that is rarely found in a martial arts film, linking it with the likes of “Oldboy” and other Korean revenge pictures (I would not be surprised if the early appearance of a hammer is meant as an homage to Chan-wook Park’s film). Wrap all this around a simple but fun premise reminiscent of classic siege flicks like John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13″ and you have a guaranteed fan favorite that we’ll still be talking about years from now. “The Raid” is perhaps the first fight flick to truly impress since Tony Jaa’s “Tom-Yum-Goong” back in 2005; in other words, the bar as been raised.
I’m not without a few nitpicks. Surprisingly, it’s easy to lose focus on Iko Uwais during the film’s first 30 minutes or so, as his character blurs into the background with the rest of his SWAT team. Several of his teammates could have stood for more characterization as well. Sure, most of them are cannon fodder – but what about the guy who holds his own and fights alongside Iko through the narcotics lab? He could have at least been granted a line of dialogue. Some part of me also longs for the days when blood and knife wounds were brought to life via make-up effects rather than computer trickery, but if digital effects allow Gareth Evans to make a film like this for only a million bucks then CG blood is a small price to pay. Regardless, picking apart “The Raid” is like criticizing the color of your parachute while sky-diving. You’re just plain missing the point.
At its heart, “The Raid” is a film that seeks to restore the communal aspect of theater going. See this movie with even a minimal amount of people at your screening and I guarantee no one will be texting or talking during it. Instead, they’ll be hollering, applauding, or gasping at least once every five minutes – and you’ll be right there with them. This film is a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart of any true martial arts or action junkie. Unlike other recent fight movies like “Bangkok Knockout,” “The Raid” comes across as more than just a glorified stunt reel thanks to the immersive cinematography that not only creates an atmosphere thick with mood but manages to capture kinetic action, like two opponents running at each other across a table, in a way that feels new and exciting. The bottom line: Hollywood has some catching up to do. “The Raid” is so adamant about entertaining its audience that it makes most other genre movies look like they’re not even trying.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 10/10