The Raid: Redemption, or Serbuan Maut in the original Indonesian, is a film that comes with high expectations. In the months prior to viewing, I had heard rumblings in the online community – people were talking about a new action film that was blowing a lot of minds.
Well, I’m happy to confirm that they were not exaggerating. Somehow a Welsh film student has directed the most compelling and entertaining action film of recent memory. It seems like a bizarre twist of fate, but we should be thankful that Gareth Evans found himself in Indonesia, where he discovered Pencak Silat, the Indonesian martial art, and the martial artist Iko Uwais, a phone deliveryman who he would cast as the star of The Raid.
The plot is slight and the setup is satisfying in its economy. Jakartian crimelord Tama Riyadi runs his empire from the top of a virtually impenetrable apartment block, considered untouchable by rival gangsters and the police. An elite SWAT team is tasked with breaking through Riyadi’s defenses and removing him from power.
The scene is quickly set for some of the most frenetic, perhaps even excessive, violence committed to screen. Roger Ebert lambasted the film for its lack of character depth and what he saw as ‘senseless carnage’. There is certainly something to be said for his comments – the characters do lack depth (though the acting is strong, especially if the actor’s lack of experience is taken into consideration) and the violence often verges on mindless. Some fight scenes, beautifully choreographed though they may be, go on for so long that my brain simply stopped being able to process the action.
Yet this shouldn’t detract from Evan’s accomplished direction (is this really only his second feature?) and the tightly-plotted script. You might think this is a dumb movie, but it is put together by intelligent people and Evan’s desire to make this more than just a kill-fest is apparent is every scene.
That said, it would be a shame not to finish by praising The Raid for some of the most spectacular fight (and gun fight) sequences of recent times. Iko Uwais and the other actors use the space to create intense fights of jaw-dropping intensity. In particular, the final throw-down between Rama, Andi and Mad Dog (the later is a truly terrifying character capable of taking a beat that would undoubtedly kill any human) rises to levels of intensity that I suspect have not been seen before.