Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Raid: Redemption (Indonesia 2011)

It's been a sleepy cinema landscape when it comes to hard-hitting, martial-arts action, especially now that Hong Kong films are sitting firmly in China's pocket and are trickling out at a snail's pace. However, and I'm admittedly a bit late to this party, The Raid: Redemption (Serbuan Maut), has assured me that not all hope is lost for this genre. Filmmakers take note; this is how you do it.

Rama (Iko Uwais), is a rookie police officer who is gearing up for what, unbeknownst to him, will be his most brutal day on the job. He says goodbye to his wife and unborn child, joining the rest of his team in the back of a SWAT van. The crew is geared up to take on an evil, no-good villianous type that goes by the name of Tama (Ray Sahetapy). Tama is basically a slumlord on a grandiose scale. He runs an apartment block, housing junkies, criminals and other unsavory types, but Rama and his fellow officers are showing up to put a stop to Tama and his evil deeds once and for all. At the helm of the team is Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), a man that clearly has it together, complete with a zero nonsense policy, and Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), an old-school veteran on the force. We find early on that this is a very capable team and are certainly able to handle business, but Tama isn't alone in this ghetto. He's got a large army of tenants that aren't looking to be evicted, as well as two intimidating sidekicks, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), and Andi (Donny Alamsyah). Clearly, this isn't the first time Tama has had the police try and shut down his operation. Our team gets the drop on the bad guys early on and stealthily make progress in the apartment complex. However, their advantage is short-lived when they're discovered by spotters that notify the big boss about their arrival. It seems like a never-ending stream of thugs charging at Rama and the others. The body count starts piling up on both sides and soon our team is left fragmented. When Sergeant Jaka starts questioning Lieutenant Wahyu about their mission, it's purpose and their lack of backup, things suddenly become more sinister. Do our boy's have what it takes to shut down this crime boss and the countless men opposing them?

Ah the action, martial-arts genre. Never known for it's ambitious story-telling or Oscar winning dialogue, but it doesn't require either of those things. The Raid: Redemption, like many films of it's ilk, has the simplest of stories, but it's just enough, and plausible enough, to get you to what you want to see without rolling your eyes; the action. There are a few twists and turns in the storyline, that I've kept out in true spoiler-free style, and they helped in giving the story a more thought-out feel. While not groundbreaking, it's clear that writer/director Gareth Evans, put some thought into it. When we learn more about Tama's sidekick Andi, things get a lot more interesting. Let's not kid ourselves here though, the action is what we want and by golly is it ever present here! The best part is that it's not just martial-arts action, there's a considerable amount of gun and knife-play going on and it's great. When the ammo starts to run short and our hero is left to just his fists and feet, he delivers some on-screen ass-whipping, the likes I haven't seen in years. Gareth Evans clearly appreciates the martial-arts, Pencak Silat; the style we see going on in The Raid, and it's filmed so that the viewer can really see and appreciate what's taking place. The shots are wide when two (or more) people are fighting and there's no bullshit cut-away shots that can sometimes take you out of the moment. Everything just looks good. It's so clear that a painstaking amount of choreography went into the fight scenes and I often found my jaw dropped at what I was seeing. There's also no fear in showing the viewer everything. Knives are slashing and stabbing into countless foes, guns are going off at point blank range and again, no cut-away. I admire that style in a film like this because hey, if you're going to be raw, gritty, edgy and in-my-face, then dammit, you better be. That being said, I suppose the proceedings are not for the squeamish. I can't say enough about Iko Uwais's skills. I honestly haven't seen anything that exciting in a very long time. He just makes everything look so flawless. I can't wait for the follow-up, Thugs (Berandal), in 2013. Same writer/director/actor, and I'm sure, same pant-shitting action.

A few people called me out on Twitter for mistaking The Raid: Redemption, as a Thai film after I posted a tweet proclaiming my excitement over this, "incredible Thai martial-arts movie". I was thankful for the correction, because I had no idea that Indonesia was putting out films like this; they weren't even a blip on my radar. Now, Indonesia is on the map (so to speak), and they can thank The Raid for that. (Lee)

Grade: A

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