The Raid (2011) Review:

This is not the fifteen stories high I know…

Cast: Iko Uwais, Donny Alamsyah, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Joe Taslim, Tegar Satrya, Eka Rahmadia, Verdi Solaiman and Ananda George.

Director: Gareth Evans.

Run-time: 101 minutes.

Certification: 18 (BBFC).

Plot: A 20-man elite police squad raids an apartment block with orders to kill a crime lord named Tama Riyadi. Little does the police force know however, the residents of the tower block all work for Riyadi, who are armed and ready to kill.

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Yep, this actually happens.

Gareth Evans’ The Raid has made quite the splash with action fans, and it is easy to see why. The film is stylish, violent (extremely) and lends itself to a sequel (which we’re getting). However, The Raid does have a few issues.

The film moves at a very brisk pace, there is a small amount of time given to introduce the characters and their upcoming predicament, and the film kicks right in. The first thing you’ll notice is how violent the film is – trust me, it is not for the faint-of-heart or squeamish -, with bullets ripping through flesh little more than 10 minutes into the film. It is before that even when we see the first act of violence, within the first 10 minutes of the film we see three men get their heads smashed in with a hammer. It’s brutal stuff.

Gunplay however, is not what The Raid prides itself in – it is in its martial arts. Every fist fight throughout the film (of which there are many) is as expertly choreographed as it is brutal. One scene in particular, in which Rama (Iko Uwais) fights through a drug lab, sliding across tables, throwing people into cupboards and being thrown into pillars and walls. It’s exciting, action packed, and best of all – tense. You never know quite what to expect next and can never tell if any character is going to live or die.

Of course, all the action and excitement would falter if the acting was below par. Luckily, the acting is actually very solid, particularly from Iko Uwais, who brings a certain amount of emotional depth and gravitas to what could have been a soulless killing machine. Yes, he is still a killing machine, but he wants to live to get home to his wife and (future) kids – much in the same way as Die Hard.

Indeed, Rama is the most human of all the characters – he looks out for fellow comrades, perhaps viewing them as family. As said above, this does not mean Rama is not a bad-ass; the body count in The Raid is very high. For the most part, deaths are dealt with guns, but when Rama is out of ammo is when the film really picks up. While he is a fantastic martial artist, he struggles against a large portion of the enemies (who are made very bad indeed), often getting seriously injured.

However, despite the awesome choreography and fantastically brutal finishers (a man gets his neck slammed through a broken door) the fights often get a little laborious and go on for too long. There is only a certain amount of time a fight can take before it gets boring, and all too often The Raid steps over the line just a little bit, it’s a shame, because with just a little bit of cutting, the film would be all the better.

There must be a reason why the fights are so long, and I think it is because of the plot. The plot – while seemingly simple enough – takes a more complicated route in the final third, taking you somewhat out of the film, questioning exactly what is going on. An action film requires a simple yet worrying plot in order to succeed, you show who the main character is, you show the bad guy, and you show why the good guy has to stop the bad guy – the third point is missing in the Raid. It’s not often I’d mark a film down for attempting to be smarter, but The Raid does not need to be as smart as it thinks it is.

Summary:

The Raid is a very fun action film that is not for the faint-hearted due to its immensely brutal nature. It is choreographed very well and you genuinely feel worried for the protagonists who are very much in a do or die situation. It’s fun to see the filmmakers were creative with some of the ways the antagonists were dispatched. However, some of the fights do go on for too long and the plot makes little sense in the final third when the film tries to make it something it is not.

Action fans should raid their local DVD store to pick up this Indonesian treat – just be prepared for a slight bitter taste.

80/100.

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