“The Raid: Redemption” is an Indonesian action film, featuring the martial art of Pencak Silat. It was given limited release two or three weeks ago, and spread wide last week. It’s been given little to no promotion, in fact, as I said on (title pending) this week, I hadn’t even noticed it was in my megaplex. Foreign, subtitled, limited release, directed by and starring people I’ve never heard of… this isn’t usually the type of movie I cover here.
But the film has been getting some crazy buzz, and the rest of this week’s offerings
make me want to kill myself are lackluster to say the least, so I figured eh, let’s go check it out.
Now that I have, there’s only one thing to say:
Holy Mary, mother of God…
A crime kingpin has set himself up in a dilapidated tenement building. He rents out the lower levels to the low lives of the city. Drug dealers, thugs, his henchmen… The result is essentially a heavily guarded fortification. Situated on the top floor, he has a virtual army of soldiers protecting him below. We’re informed that several rival gangs have challenged the complex, and have been repelled. Now it’s the Police’s turn. An armored transport drops an elite SWAT team of about 20 to 25 men outside the complex, and we watch as they commence their infiltration. The team silently penetrates the tenement in a choreographed and well executed manner. Quietly they assassinate sentries and stealthily storm the stairwells.
They get about halfway up before all hell breaks loose.
Seriously. Shit gets shot UP.
“The Raid: Redemption” quickly turns from a movie about a SWAT team infiltrating a fortified building, and into a story about a SWAT team trying to escape said building with their lives.
Once the action begins in earnest, it is pedal to the metal time. There’s an enormous shoot out that then eventually segues into hand to hand combat – mainly I think because the entire country ran out of bullets. Doesn’t slow things down a bit. Once things go close combat, dudes get shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, bashed, kicked, punched, thrown, chopped, slammed, sliced, kneed, elbowed, stomped, dropped, and blowed up. Not necessarily in that order, but frequently at the same time and always in rapid succession. Combatants punch, spin, flip, block, and kick. They throw each other into things, onto things, out of things, off of things… everything.
It’s an intoxicatingly brutal ballet of bullets, blades and blood.
It’s baaad ass.
Take a look at the trailer to get a taste of the action. Be warned, this is the red-band trailer, so its relatively graphic at points.
But this is NOT to paint the movie as a mindless action flick. It’s not. The plot is simple, yes. The characters aren’t complex, no. But “The Raid: Redemption” has exactly the necessary amount of narrative, dialogue and character establishment to create a sturdy framework for the electrically charged action. This is a spartan, taut movie. There isn’t a single ounce of fat on it.There’s enough, literally just the perfect minimalist amount of plot and character work to suck you in and make you care and understand and then not a second more is wasted. The martial artists are all phenomenal and the acting is good all around and great at the most important point. The villain is awesome here. MAN! So good.
Director Gareth Evans is the big story here, to me, though. As much as any of the stars wow with their performances or their martial skills, Evans – who’s a Welsh director working out of Indonesia, per Wikipedia – shows off his skills with every bit as much flash and flourish as any of the high kicking, flipping, back-fisting martial arts stars “The Raid” features. Like the combatants themselves, Evans takes the camera and continuously changes stances with it, using creative angles and lighting, keeping the visuals exciting by constantly keeping you on your toes with his work within the frame. Then he sets it all to a techno beat and edits the action propulsively.
Only action fans need apply here, but if you DO like action movies, hold on to your hat. Cause this is the shit right here. I’m tellin’ ya.