Movie Review: ‘The Raid: Redemption’

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Drop everything you’re doing this weekend and go see The Raid: Redemption. The film, which blew audiences away at the Sundance Film Festival last year and at South By Southwest this year, is the most adrenaline- fueled and violent film since…actually, The Raid has no predecessors. This action spectacular is in a league all its own and is destined to become a cult favorite in a very short time.

In 2002, The Bourne Identity raised the bar for fight choreography in action movies. Ten years later, The Raid makes Jason Bourne look like Jake LaMotta at the end of his career. Writer/director Gareth Evans constantly escalates the film’s fight sequences until the climax crescendos into an all-out battle where the actors are executing moves no human should be able to accomplish.

The plot is simple (some will say too simple, but ignore them). A group of elite police officers must invade a dilapidated apartment building in order to take down ruthless crime lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy) who lords over the structure and the occupants like a king, untouchable by anyone. Rama (Iko Uwais) is a young officer with a pregnant wife at home. All he wants is to come home safely, even though the mission seems like certain death. However, early in the film, we see Rama’s morning routine which includes unleashing a fury of rapid-fire blows to a heavy bag, moving so fast that the punches and kicks are almost a blur.

As the men ascend the building floor by floor, their progress is going well until one of Tama’s spotters sets off an alarm, alerting Tama, and the rest of the building’s residents, to the presence of intruders, i.e. cops. Tama orders his minions to evict the unwelcome guests in whatever manner they so choose. This involves machetes, machine guns and countless displays of dazzling martial arts skills. Rama and the other men must then decide to either complete their mission or attempt to escape with their lives.

Evans, an Irish native who has lived and worked in Indonesia for the past several years, made The Raid for two reasons. First, he wanted to bring international attention to the martial art known as silat. This style of fighting, which relies as much on speed as it does on strength, is essentially the equivalent of the national sport of Indonesia, but is relatively obscure in other countries.

In addition to highlighting silat, Evans also wanted to make his friend Uwais an international action star. Uwais, who appeared in Evans’ previous film, Merantau, is also one of the film’s fight choreographers, along with Yayan Ruhian, who plays the sadistic Mad Dog. Together, Uwais and Ruhian have created fight sequences so brilliantly arranged and perfectly executed as to be almost balletic. Uwais, both a handsome leading man and a master of silat, is likely to be a marquee name in no time.

The Raid: Redemption is an action picture unlike any other. Evans allows the fight scenes to last well over five minutes at times, an eternity compared to most action movies. The desperation of the characters is felt as the scenes become more and more violent and much more personal. Walking out of The Raid, all you will want to do is turn around and watch it again.

Grade: A-