SXSW ’12 – The Raid: Redemption Review



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Action junkies will want to snort a line of this ultra-violent theatrical experience

There are films and then there are theatrical experiences – full-throttle assaults perpetrated on your senses via filmed images flicking on a screen. Very rarely do these two animals crossbreed and when they do the results far too often beget hideous mutant C.H.U.D. movies that rather than be watched should be locked up in a basement lest they pick up a chainsaw, don a leather mask and terrorize a van full of teenagers with its warped cinematic DNA.

The Raid: Redemption, the new Indonesian martial arts film from director Gareth Evans, is both film and theatrical experience and the result – while not pretty – is outstanding in every possible way you can use the word.

Evans, who previously teamed up with star Iko Uwais with the film Merantau, has created the martial arts equivalent of the dance movie. The Raid: Redemption is the ass-kicking, hyper-violent equivalent of Step Up 2: The Streets – and I mean that in the best way possible. Plot, while existent and as developed as it could possibly be given the short time spent focusing on it, is given a backseat to death and dismemberment – all captured on screen in a startlingly brisk and in-your-face approach. The movie is primarily a showcase for talent – instead of breakdancing or crunking, though, the talent show on display in The Raid involves knowing how to kill a man a thousand different ways.

Uwais stars as Rama, a rookie cop that is part of an elite team of police tasked with infiltrating a high-rise full of killers, rapists, drug deals and thugs. The team is ordered to slip into the apartment without being detected and take down the drug lord that runs it. Unfortunately, the task proves harder to accomplish than expected and the team, discovered by a spotter, is left to defend themselves against hundreds of heavily armed, highly trained hoods. The resulting carnage will take the team through every level of the high-rise as they break through walls, fall through ceilings and ride back up in blood-stained elevators.

Evans and his team of action choreographers have created a film that barrels full force through any pretensions or sense of restraint. Every inch of the film is dripping with pure concentrated badass. Snorting just a tiny line of the cool, well-constructed violence contained in The Raid: Redemption will send even the most experienced of action junkies into a fit of excitement and uncontrolled fist pumping.

Rama’s backstory and motivations are slowly revealed and explored as the film builds to its conclusion. Evans plops the viewer directly into the story and only gives enough information to carry the film’s audience forward scene-to-scene. This technique allows Evans to play to his strengths as an action director and keep the needless exposition to a minimum. Uwais’ charisma and inert action hero DNA is more than enough to carry the film regardless of its lightweight approach to plot. Audiences won’t notice any lack of complicated backstory until, at the film’s conclusion, they realize it was there all along.

While The Raid: Redemption can seem overly busy at times (there is so much going on in any given scene that trying to absorb the film’s action and read the subtitles at the same time will guarantee a headache – a headache completely worth it, though) and the cinematography suffers from a dependency on handheld camera work, this only adds to the film’s rewatchability. Audiences will want to see the movie again and again – just to study how Evans and his team were able to pull off some of the groundbreaking stunt work or fight choreography. I think that this movie could actually inspire the first day-to-day film calendar. Every day of a year could be spent disecting a scene from the film – and it would be a year well spent.

The American release of The Raid: Redemption comes with a new soundtrack by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese. Without having the original film score to compare it to, the score for the American release is never obtrusive and does exactly what a good action movie score should – work in conjunction with the film to the point where it is as seamless with the finished movie as the lighting or costuming choices.

The Raid is too violent, too complicated in its chorography and too light on story. For fans of action cinema, though, these “negatives” are music to our ears.

Director: Gareth Evans
Notable Cast: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Rushian, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Setrya and Ray Sehetapy
Writer(s): Gareth Evans

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