Its strange writing a review for a film I’ve just watched for the 6th time. I’ve usually reserved 5-plus viewings for things like Blues Brothers, Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Big Lebowski and so on. These are films that have been around for quite a while so it isn’t too hard to rack up 10 plus views over 10 or 20 years. In fact it should be mandatory.
I first saw the Raid Redemption in May 2012. So watching it six times that quickly is pretty unprecedented for me. But you know – this is a pretty unprecedented film. Directed by Gareth Evans in 2011, he has described it as a survival horror film. I feel it is more like watching a demonic ballet. Fluid, poetic with a cadence of tension and release, this is superb film-making. At one session I attended the whole audience cheered and clapped one of the scenes. How often do you see that these days? .
The Raid begins with Rama (Iko Uwais), an Indonesian SWAT team officer is getting ready for work in the quiet of the early morning. Just before he leaves he comforts his heavily pregnant wife and makes a promise to his father. He then joins twenty other crack SWAT officers in an armoured truck as they head towards a run-down tower block in Jakarta‘s slums.
Seargent Jaka (Joe Taslim) is briefing the squad along the way. They are going to take out crime boss Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy), his two henchmen Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and Andi (Donny Alamsyah) and any and all of their gang who oppose Jaka’s men. Tama runs a drug lab and operation from the Tower Block and is literally a law unto himself.
Jaka tells his squad that Tama, Mad Dog, Andi and their gang are vicious criminals and merciless killers. Their job will be dangerous in the extreme. Jaka doesn’t want any empty seats on the way home.
As they pull up behind the Tower Block they meet plain clothes detective Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) who joins them on the raid. Moving quickly and quietly the team gains access downstairs without being noticed and begin to secure the building gagging and handcuffing gang members as the squad rises up through the building. Everything is going to plan.
Until they get to the sixth floor.
A lookout spots them and manages to raise the alarm. Tama puts the building into lockdown and announces over the building’s P.A. system that the intruders must be dealt with and he will reward those who kill the officers with free life-time tenancy. The squad begins to break-up as they deal with threats on all sides – snipers externally and AK47 wielding psychopaths internally. During an intense fire-fight Jaka demands that Wahyu call for backup. Wahyu tells Jaka that there will be no backup. This is not an official Raid and no-one knows they are there.
Jaka, Rama and what is left of the squad wage an exhausting and exhilarating fight for survival against wave after wave of enemies. Although they are on opposite sides of the law Rama and Andi share a hidden history that results in an explosive reaction from Tama and a twist in direction of events. With the squad mostly dead or injured after defending for hours Rama decides they must go on the attack and finish the job they came there to do.
The Raid: Redemption has received fantastic critical reception and many bloggers have placed it in their top 10 film lists for 2012. I agree wholeheartedly. The music was a perfect match for the flow and cadence of the action and I found every actor – major roles, minor roles and extras compelling and consistent. The dialogue (the English translation at least) was sparse and meshed with the mood and action perfectly. Nothing laboured, but nothing underdone.
The martial arts were fast, fluid, inventive, brutal and open. The best I’ve seen. The setting was perfect. Atmospheric and claustrophobic – the dingy, dark and sad building could have been just as easily used for a ghost story as an action film.
However, a few reviewers have criticised The Raid for lack of a story. For god’s sake.
The Raid’s narrative is built by the sheer artistry of the film making. You don’t need words to tell a story.
The Raid is a great tale, breathtaking in the telling.
10 out of 10