The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption is a 2011 Indonesian action martial arts film written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans. Evans’ preceding  film was 2009’s Merantau, which starred Iko Uwais. Evans was a student living in Indonesia when he discovered the little-known but effective and interesting form of martial arts known as pencak silat. Evans felt that pencak silat would make for a great martial arts film, and teamed up with Iko Uwais, an actor and practitioner of pencak silat, for Merantau, which received positive reviews and a sizeable amount of international recognition.

Uwais and Evans teamed up again for 2011’s The Raid, which was released in international markets as The Raid: Redemption. The film stars Iko Uwais, Donny Alamsyah, Joe Taslim, Ray Sahetaphy, Yayan Ruhian, and Pierre Gruno. Rama is a member of a special tactics team in the capital city of Jakarta, the capital and most populous city in Indonesia. The 20-man squad he is a part of is tasked with capturing Tama, a notorious drug lord operating out of a high-rise in the city slums. The mission is masterminded by a lieutenant named Waiyhu. It turns out Waiyhu is a dirty cop operating on orders of other dirty cops, the mission is unsanctioned, and they are operating without backup. The operation goes to pot, and the 20-man team is swiftly cut down to 4.5, as a officer named Bowo ends up critically wounded. What becomes a police raid becomes a raid on the police; the high-rise is a safe haven for scumbags of all kinds, and Tama offers rent-free living to anyone who helps “cut down the infestation.” The men are now in a desperate fight for their lives. It develops that his own life isn’t the only one Rama’s concerned with saving.

The Raid, both literally and metaphorically, doesn’t pull any punches. With a budget equivalent to a relatively paltry $1.1 million, The Raid is dirty, nasty, and intense. There is no flair; it doesn’t try to be more than what it is: bone-crunchingly violent and entertaining to watch. The simple, yet effective plot is set up within the 20-minute mark, leaving an hour-and-a-half for a glorious smorgasbord of forearm blocks, forearm strikes, tackles, grapples, chokeholds, armbars, bullets, guns, machetes, blood, and sound effects most likely captured by the sound guy going to town on a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips.

The choreography for this wonderful fight-fest is the most fast-paced and kinetic as you have ever seen. As I have mentioned before, I have somewhat of a weird fascination with martial arts and a good fight scene  What I may have neglected to mention was The Raid began that fascination. This movie is insane. It is balls-to-the-wall brutal and fast but still manages to be interesting and complex, in terms of choreography. This makes Mad Max or John Wick look like child’s play.

The Raid, for being a very straightforward martial arts film, also features rather decent acting and a twist or two along the way. Iko Uwais is a good actor, so are Donny Alamsayah and Joe Taslim. Rama and Andi are empathetic enough to be effective characters, and the Sarge is a boss. To put it in the most simple of terms, The Raid offers a mind-blowing amount of insane and well-put-together action, with passable acting and a setting, story, and script that is nothing more than an excuse for the insanity. I don’t see why that’s a problem; with action and stunts as nuts as the ones you see in this movie, it shouldn’t be. Nevertheless, the late, grate Roger Ebert panned the film, giving it a scathing indictment and 1 out of 4 stars. I feel as though Ebert heard that The Raid was awesome but had no idea why. Don’t watch The Raid expecting anything thought-provoking, watch it expecting to see a lot of people end up with every bone in their body destroyed, a gelatinous, writhing shell of what used to be a scumbag drug dealer.

In America, The Raid came under fire for ripping off the plot of the cult action film Dredd, a film which came out earlier that same year. Nothing came of this, though, and only served to bolster the film’s notoriety in the U.S. Indeed, its violent antics and controversy with Dredd have made The Raid a cult classic film for action junkies like myself, which made it quite successful in overseas markets. The Raid more than quadrupled its budget due to all of this, which has led to a sequel, released in 2014, with a third installment planned in 2018. An American remake is also in the early stages of production, and as far as I know, Frank Grillo, known as Crossbones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the protagonist of the latter two films in The Purge franchise, is set to lead.

The Raid is an awesome action movie that doesn’t bring much else to the table, mainly because it doesn’t need to in any way, shape, or form. You know what you’re getting into. If you want action, this is your film. If you want thought or plot, go find something else.