We can remember the exact moment action films died for us. It was about two thirds into Die Hard 4.0 – or Live Free Die Hard to give it its poncy title – and Bruce Willis develops superpowers, has a bare knuckle fight with an F-35B fighter jet and wins. The balding middle aged copper goes toe to toe with a plane used by the Marines and treats it like a fly on jam. From this point onwards, we became a little jaded with the genre. Yes, there’s been the occasional blip of interest, but nothing that stirs the blood. Then The Raid: Redemption came out…
After an assault on a block of flats to take out one of Indonesia’s largest drug lords results in most of his fellow SWAT team members receiving acupuncture in the form of bullets, fledgling cop Rama (Iko Uwais) must take what’s left of his troop and get the hell out of Dodge. This would be spectacularly easy if said drug lord, Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy), didn’t actually own the block and fortified it like a slightly paranoid risk manager at Fort Knox. So, whilst a simple following of exit signs is out of the question, Rama is left to fight through the seemingly never-ending supply of Riyadi’s foot soldiers using bullets, fists, axes, fists, knives, doors, fists and fists attached to fists.
Okay, we admit. It’s hardly the most complicated of plots and, yes, whilst it can be argued that the whole thing has the thematic depth of a puddle, that doesn’t stop it from being a rollicking ride. The pace is hectic whilst never being overbearing, and this is primarily thanks to director, Gareth Evans stopping the action here and there to let our hero, and ourselves, take a breather and talk exposition. And if the thought of reading subtitles upsets you more than it should, then you needn’t worry as you’ll soon be back to appreciating the staggering choreography of The Raid’s stuntmen. Woo! He done kicked his neck off with his toe!
Like The Expendables, there’s a gleeful abandon to be had from The Raid; where even the most button down conservative will struggle not to fist pump the air in celebration of such poetic violence. Evans knows what people want when they come to a martial arts film and he gives them it in bucket loads. Even if, it should be said, his script does raise a few eyebrows with regards to how fight scenes are introduced. For example, a rather trigger happy individual suddenly unburdens himself of his gun and confesses that he prefers hand to hand combat anyway. To be honest though, this is a minor quibble. The equivalent of a fly fart in a hurricane. When the film was over, we had a massive grin on our face that took several hours to wear off.
The Raid was given a surprisingly small release in the UK and Australia which means for a lot of people seeing it on DVD and Blu-Ray will be the only way to see Gareth Evan’s fourth feature film. However, as with a lot of non-English language movies, it’s hardly been given the marketing budget of other action films, such as unnecessary remake – Total Recall, grungy by committee – The Amazing Spider-Man and most in need of some resonance tuning – The Dark Knight Rises. This further means that another number of people won’t get to see it till it’s pushed on them by friends. Which, in all honesty, we kind of approve of. It’s comforting to know that for years to come people will be running into their friends’ house crying ‘He killed him with a fucking door!’
The Raid is what you could describe as high octane, visceral, blood pumping machismo in a handy soluable pill, which is true, but it makes you sound like a complete muppet. Buy it, own it, love it.