I went to see ‘The Raid’ last weekend. I was pretty excited because I’d heard that the film consisted of non-stop blood, guns, knives, and guys punching each other really hard. I hadn’t seen an all-out, grotesquely in-your-face action movie for quite a while, and you sometimes just need a couple hours of unrelenting death to get you through the days. I was also interested because it was an Indonesian language film directed by a Welsh guy. Gareth Evans used to help people learn, surprisingly, Welsh over the Internet. Then he married an Indonesian, and went over there to do a documentary on a form of martial arts known as Pencak Silat. He decided it was cool enough to make films about.
For those who don’t know the basic plotline of the movie, it’s about an elite Swat team of 20 guys that decide to go to this block of apartments in the heart of gangland Jakarta where uber drug-lord Tama resides. The task? Take Tama out. But things, as we’ve seen countless times before, are never that easy. Because along with Tama are pretty much all of Jakarta’s drug dealers, gangsters, murderers, and general psychopaths. That building has been a no-go area for the police for quite some time, and you can imagine it has become something of an impenetrable fortress. As the tagline says, it’s “thirty floors of chaos” up in there. The movie starts with about 5 minutes of Rama, the rookie cop and protagonist, getting up, praying and going ape-shit all over his punch-bag. You get a fairly good idea of his role to come. And then boom, we cut to the back of the Swat truck and the sergeant is giving a little pep talk to his squad about their mission at hand. And let me tell you, the man does not sugar-coat it. He essentially says, “Ok we have a job to do. It’s pretty much impossible because no one in there gives a shit about the police, they have a lot of guns, they know kung fu, and they’re all mental. So I don’t blame you if you’re all soiling yourselves right now, but – oh shit, we’re here.”
They then get to the building at dawn, and silently infiltrate the first five floors, subduing and tying up all those they find on the way. Then some fvcking kid sees them and in a pretty sweet sequence, manages to get the news of the invasion to Tama. So Tama introduces the policemen to the neighbours. They’re a friendly bunch. What ensues is a blood bath, followed by punching, slicing, breaking, shooting, more shooting, a bit more slicing, and then a slice-shoot-break-punch combo. That cycle repeats itself for about an hour and a half.
The film is by no means perfect. There are a couple of pretty predictable “twists”, and the plot weakens as the film progresses. It fits the bill in a lot of ways for this type of movie. For example, the last line of Tama’s defence is a bodyguard called Mad Dog. Really? I mean, you immediately know what you’re in for with Mad Dog. Wouldn’t it maybe be a little subtler, and perhaps more ominous if he was called Simon, or Colin? It’d be a really ingenious tactic: “Aw crap guys, it turns out Colin is ridiculously insane.” Also, as much as I love sweet kung fu, I think that some of the fight scenes went on a bit too long, and I got kinda bored at points.
Having said that, I did enjoy it. The film is meant to entertain, and it did just that. For me, it had a slight ‘Battle Royale’ feel to it, which is definitely a good thing. The action felt very real and gritty, and you really got the impression that these two sides absolutely haaaaaated each other. You weren’t just killed by bullets; you were dissolved. Iko Uwais, who played the hero, was pretty good, and Tama, the big bad boss man, was very well cast. He was spot-on at doing the whole ‘scary Asian drug-lord’ thing.
So yeah, all in all, I’d recommend seeing it. Even though the plot slips towards the end, the first half really blew me away. It’s a well-directed actioner (is that a word?) with some very impressive sequences, good suspense and realistic special effects. Doesn’t exactly redefine the action genre, but it does stand out in the quality of the action, and it’s just plain fun. Violent fun. Violence is fun. I love violence.