Friday, 18 May 2012

The Raid

"Pulling a trigger is like ordering a takeout"

The Raid/ The Raid: Redemption/ Serbuan maut - Deep inside one of Jakarta’s slums lays an apartment block that is the base of one of Indonesia’s most wanted gangsters, Tama Riyadi (Donny Alamsyah). After being a no go area for the Police for years, they plan a raid to take the gangsters out. Early one morning a 20 man SWAT team descend on the building with the aim of clearing it out once and for all. Amongst the team is rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) who has left his heavily pregnant wife at home that morning, possibly for the last time. The SWAT team slowly make their way through the building, taking prisoners as they go before they get to the 6th floor where they are discovered. Soon an army of drug dealers, criminals and gangsters is on top of the small team of Police and what began as a mission to clear the building turns into a battle for survival and escape.

Id’ been looking forward to this film for months, having heard great things from the countries in which it has already been released. I’d heard rumours that it was the best Action film in a long time and having now seen it I have to agree that it probably is. The action is frenetic and features five or six scenes which are equal to the Oldboy corridor scene. That is enough on its own to make a great film but there is also a fairly engaging story of deceit, courage and duty. The story takes a back seat for a lot of the film but there are some nice twists in there. What this film is really about is hitting people, repeatedly and in ever differing ways. Director Gareth Evans cleverly balances the action with several short rest bites in which the audience can regain their breath before throwing another superb fight scene at them.

I’ve never been interested in Martial Arts films and cannot think of a single one I’ve ever seen. There’s often a bit in some of my favourite Korean thrillers but it’s usually just a small part of the film. I think this is the first proper Martial Arts film that I’ve actually seen. I was blown away by the fantastic choreography of the fight scenes. They were truly incredible. It was almost like watching a ballet. Admittedly a very violent ballet and one that is more exciting than most. I can’t begin to imagine how much time must have gone into the choreography but the result is very impressive. As well as the fights looking good, they are also incredibly violent and generally don’t shy away from showing the audience the gory details. It only took about five minutes before my girlfriend was unable to look at the screen for the first time and she hid behind my shoulder several more times after that. I turned away myself once. Once both sides guns are empty they resort to more unusual and gruesome weapons which include machetes and even fridges!

As well as the great choreography the film is also shot in a beautiful and stylish way that keeps the audience at the heart of the action all the way through. Gareth Evans looks to be a very talented film maker. He uses some nice arty camera angles and has the camera follow the action everywhere, from wide open spaces, through floors and even behind walls. Another area in which the film excelled was its soundtrack. The film has a thumping electro-drum & bass soundtrack which works really well with the onscreen action. I was tapping my feet along the whole way through. The US soundtrack was produced by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park but I don’t know if that’s the version we got here in the UK. Either way, the version I heard was excellent and made me want to buy the OST, something I rarely do.

As much as I enjoyed the film, after an hour or so of great action I did start to feel as though it was getting a bit samey. There were still excellent set pieces left for the final third including an epic three way fight but I’d become a little bit bored by it. Despite this, I still enjoyed the film as a whole much more than most films I’ve seen this year. I had to laugh a couple of times at the amount of punishment some of the characters were taking before getting back up as though they’d been hit by a wet marshmallow. It was a little unrealistic but no more so than any action film. As you’d expect with a successful Asian film, the rights have already been sold for an American remake. Considering the film has very little dialogue and employs some of the best Martial Arts in the world I can’t see how a remake will improve anything. It’s just another excuse for lazy Americans to watch something without having to read and make sure there are plenty of white people on screen so it doesn’t seem too foreign. It’s ridiculous. 
Overall The Raid slightly failed to live up to my very high expectations but it is still better than 95% of Action Films out there. The choreography is beautiful and with a body count in the hundreds it certainly packed plenty of action into its 101 minutes. It’s opened my eyes to Martial Arts but not made me want to see another similar film. The plot is fine but incidental but the action and soundtrack alone make the film one of the best in recent months.


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