The Raid is comfortably one of the most exciting action movies to have been made in years.
An Indonesian action thriller directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, The Raid has been taking the festival scene by storm since Toronto, and having caught the film last week we are pleased to confirm that the hype is very much justified.
Based around an inner-city tower block controlled by a drug lord, who rents rooms to all manner of lowlives, The Raid opens with an elite 20-man SWAT team heading in to clear out the building, and to capture the villain, who resides on the 15th floor. We are introduced to one or two key members of the team, including rookie Rama (Iko Uwais) and the captain Jaka (Joe Taslim) before they arrive, when of course all hell breaks loose. Trapped in the building, they must fight their way out upwards, heading towards the top floor through hordes of vicious killers.
What follows is essentially a 90 minute battle scene, as Rama and friends battle their way through waves of assailants in a manner not dissimilar to a scrolling beat-em-up such as Streets of Rage. The exhausting pace continues right up to the end of the running time, barely pausing for breath as more and more crunching, visceral violence is dished up. Mainly consisting of pitched gun battles in the first act, as things become more desperate the focus switches to hand-to-hand combat, which is where Uwais really comes into his own. A practitioner of the martial art of silat, Uwais is a coiled spring of power, dispatching foes with fists, feet, sticks and knives as the battles grow in intensity. The actor’s proficiency is something to behold, as he serves up countless brutal and nasty fight scenes without missing a beat.
The stunning choreography (which Uwais was also heavily involved with) enables the fights to fly by in a pitch-perfect blend of realism and spectacle, with the nastily pragmatic silat techniques effectively disabling opponents so as to never have too many active at once. Of course, most of the fights are infused with the sort of showmanship we have come to expect from a martial arts movie, and so crowd-pleasing moments are not in short supply here.
The soundtrack to all this mayhem is set to be changed to a Mike Shinoda score for the US release, and while that will likely be fine, the original score is no lame duck – a pounding, pulsing beat which recalls early John Carpenter (speaking of whom, the influence of Assault on Precinct 13 is clear here), the tension which is built up in several scenes is made all the more effective thanks to the first-rate musical accompaniment, and it will be a shame to lose it in translation.
If there is to be one criticism of The Raid, it is that the action is a little too relentless, never once pausing to establish any kind of a story. There is the most cursory of plots inserted here, including one slightly regrettable twist which may cause a facepalm or two, but in fairness we still found ourselves fully behind the heroes, even though little was shown to cause us to invest any real emotion in them.
A powerful experience which takes a tight location and logistically difficult premise, and manages to cram a phenomenal amount of violence into a lean 100 minute running time, The Raid is comfortably one of the most exciting action movies to have been made in years. Set for a wider release later this year, we can’t wait to see it again. We are even more excited about the planned sequel, and The Raid should see Evans and Uwais become stars. Just don’t mention the already planned US remake…