Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Raid: Redemption

At an occupied apartment building, a squad of 20 elite Police officers, including rookie Officer Rama (Iko Uwais), Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) and Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) arrive and prepare to break in. Their task is to make their way to the fifteenth floor in order to kill Tama Riyadi, a crime lord who runs the apartment as his own. However, upon entering the building, Riyadi orders every resident to help defend the apartments. Soon, with an onslaught of attackers, the simple task becomes a lot harder than originally expected.

Before seeing this film, the only work I'd seen from Welsh director Gareth Evans was his short film "Safe Haven" from last year's V/H/S 2, which I consider to be something of a mini horror masterpiece. In what was already a pretty effective horror, Evans' short film blew every other contender out the water. So, naturally, after being so impressed with one of his short films, I was pretty excited to see what he could do given a film of feature length. And, quite frankly, the result is a knock-out. I was aware The Raid would be pretty explosive with its fist fighting and action sequences, but I wasn't really expecting that.

For a film of this type, 100 minutes is the perfect running time, and Evans uses that running time perfectly. Less than a tenth of the way into the film and the doors are breached; we're in. From that moment, the next 90 minutes don't allow you much time to think. From throat slittings, to decapitations, to sniper rifles, to ten-storey drops, you can't say The Raid isn't innovative. Every time a major character is killed, it's done in a different way. For a film that is 90 minutes of sheer fighting and martial arts, you'd expect to grow tired by the end. But you don't. In fact, the films final act is probably where it's at its most tense. Packed with action, a brilliantly startling twist and enough violence to make Chuck Norris cringe, action films don't get more tense than this.

But, in sight of this, the film doesn't lose its hold on the characters. Rama is our protagonist here, and starting the film in his home, surrounded by his family was a solid move. Simple, but effective. He's the only character here that we have a background to. Normally this would annoy me with most other films, but The Raid isn't like most other films. Whereas other action films may try for emotion and character development and ultimately fail, The Raid hardly tries at all. But it works. When the adrenaline is this high for a solid 90 minutes, you don't want to sit there having emotion and sob stories thrown at you. There's a nice twist around Rama's character and motives mid-way through the film's second act, and we ultimately end on a surprisingly upbeat note. In a film of its sort, I wouldn't ask for any more.

But, obviously, where this film truly excels is its fight sequences. They are, simply put, some of the best I've ever seen. The choreography here is astounding, but what blew me away is how quick these actors move. The cameras hurtle all over the place, the music pounds blood goes everywhere and the movement is akin to lightning. Blink once and you risk missing half of the choreography, it is insane. How the cameras keep up really is something to behold. A sequel was released earlier this year which unfortunately I missed in the cinema. Although, from what I've heard, it's to the same standard of this one. All I know, is I'm heading straight to the DVD store when its released. Evans has also confirmed that The Raid is to finish as a trilogy. Is it too early to name it the greatest action trilogy of all time?

To Summarise: Using its simple premise to its advantage, The Raid: Redemption is the rare action film that unloads sheer grit and adrenaline to the max, thanks to Gareth Evans' masterful direction.

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