Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.
This is the eleventh in a series of monthly reviews suggested by Nick Jobe at Your Face.
Of all the films that Nick picked for me this year, none was so gleefully anticipated by me as The Raid: Redemption. I waited as long as I could to watch it to give me something to keep striving to. Since next month’s film has a Christmas theme, it made sense to leave it for last, so The Raid waited until I could no longer hold back from watching it. I sort of knew that if I watched it in February (when I originally planned to), I’d have hit the highest point right off the bat and would be mildly let down the rest of the year.
Why? Well, based on reputation, The Raid: Redemption is the kick-assingest action film ever made. Having seen it, I can only say that it was definitely worth the wait. This is a film I’m certain I would have gotten to eventually, again based on its reputation. It’s a few minutes of set up and pretty much solid action from that point forward. In fact, in a lot of ways, I’d already seen The Raid because I’ve already seen Dredd, which is very much a science fiction remake of this film.
With all of that said, Nick has given me something of a poser here. What exactly do I say about this film beyond the fact that it is a series of incredible fight choreographies and some of the nastiest hand-to-hand violence I’ve seen in a long time. There’s one spot that seems to be designed specifically as a counter to Oldboy to claim the title of the most brutal scene ever shot in a corridor. This is film violence at its best and bloodiest, and a great deal of it is up close and personal. Sure, it’s not realistic. A couple of the characters take beatings that no human being could survive, and they soldier on to fight again. Injuries seem to be temporary. They might limp away from a fight, but soon after, they’re running again.
We start with a group of cops in Jakarta headed to take down a criminal kingpin. The kingpin owns a large apartment complex and rents out rooms to other criminals who need a place to stay. Horribly paranoid, he has the place wired with cameras to keep track of everything going on around him. The cops’ plan is to show up, take the building floor by floor, and bring back the head criminal Tama (Ray Sahetapy) and his two head minions, Andi (Donny Alamsyah) and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian). Among the cops is Rama (Iko Uwais), a rookie with a pregnant wife.
It all starts out well and the cops take the first five floors before they are spotted by a lookout. All hell breaks loose for a little bit and eventually, Tama figures out what is going on. He kills the power to the building and tells the residents that if they can get rid of this infestation of cops on the sixth floor, they can have permanent, rent-free residence. And so the fighting starts.
It’s all guns for the first chunk of the action, and there’s a great deal of action here. The cops get whittled down to just a few and do things like hole up in rooms, use an ax to chop through floors to go down a level, and blow up refrigerators. Eventually, we’re down to five cops against the whole building. These are Rama, Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), and officers Dagu (Eka Rahmadia) and Bowo (Tegar Satrya). Bowo is wounded and eventually placed in an apartment for safe keeping by Rama. The group splits up, rejoins, loses members and regains them, all with almost continuous fighting. In one of the slower moments, we learn that Tama’s brain guy Andi is Rama’s brother, and the two are, in a large sense, fighting not only to survive, but to protect each other.
There’s a lot going on here, and the plot is surprisingly twisty for a film that really exists to demonstrate the Indonesian fighting style pencak silat. It’s a rough and brutal style—a lot of throws, knees, and elbows. While there are some slow moments, it’s pretty breakneck for the bulk of the film, and a number of these actors, completely unknown in the West, are at the top of their form. Key here is Iko Uwais, who is going to probably be the next martial arts action star and will be for some time. Donny Alamsyah, Eka Rahmadia, and Yayan Ruhian are all also fantastic. It’s almost a shame that the character of Dagu (Rahmadia) doesn’t get a chance to show his stuff until late in the film. He doesn’t look like an ass-kicker, but looks are quite deceiving.
The thing that surprised me most was the amount of blood. This is a great action movie, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the actual wounds and deaths are brutal in the extreme. In a sense, while it will appeal to action movie fans, it will also appeal to gore junkies with the amount that’s spilled here. I’d love to know how some of these scenes were done.
There’s a little too much shaky-cam for me. I get that it can be used to intensify the action of a scene sometimes, but when it comes to the full on fight scenes, I’d rather see the action clearly than try to get glimpses of it through camerawork that bobs around more than I’d like. Fortunately, most of the shaky work is during the gun battle, and I mind it less here. That’s literally my only complaint, though. There’s just enough character building that we wince at a couple of deaths and are happy for a couple of people living. And that’s enough.
Good call, Nick. This is an undisputed win all the way around. You’re 8.5 for 11.
Why to watch The Raid: Redemption: Unreal action.
Why not to watch: Some of the beatings and recoveries are hard to swallow.