Published on May 19th, 2012 | by Matthew Gammond1
The Raid – Review
Brutality and beauty are two things that go hand-in-hand far more frequently that you imagine. Often, something which is remarkably uncivil can become an art form through the keen eye of a choreographer and the vision of a director. A transformation occurs on-screen and a simple stand-off can come to represent something akin to Swan Lake; I appreciate that that metaphor may be a little askew but the point remains.
And this is where The Raid comes in; it’s a film with a very simple premise – an elite team of SWAT officers enters an apartment building in an effort to depose a ruthless criminal.
For a film that lasts nearly two hours, a fantastic amount of time is spent within this dank complex. Director Gareth Evans wastes very little time with character development and the core plot is revealed to us only as the SWAT van approaches the tower.
Reserved for the personality building is our hero – Rama –played wonderfully by the soon-not-to-be-anonymous Iko Uwais. He is shown to be a family man and a master of martial arts, with scenes of him beating the proverbial out of a punch bag punctuating the scenes within which he is comforting his pregnant wife.
As with any premise as simple as this, you can see what will unfold before it happens and exactly what you’re thinking now does happen. The raid on the building gets rumbled and everything goes horribly wrong; hands up if you didn’t see that coming.
Cue all manner of fecal matter being thrust into the big whirly thing. Once that team enters the tower all hell breaks loose and what follows is a deliciously orchestrated symphony of violence and bloodshed the like of which I haven’t seen for many a year.
The setting functions as a melting pot; all the ingredients are thrown in for a variety of action scenes that, for want of a less clichéd phrase, will have the viewers on the edge of their seats. The close walls and dark corridors provide a perfect place to stage a dramatic and intense gunfight or, better yet, a full blown martial arts showdown.
The building manages to feel like a prison and at the risk of cracking off a second cliché in as many paragraphs… it’s certainly a character. Its imposing atmosphere and hopeless feel make it come alive and I found myself willing the squad to get the hell out of there.
Speaking of which, our hero is joined by Jaka (Joe Taslim), Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) and Budi (Verdi Solaiman) as well as the several nameless ‘fodder’ characters. All have their moments but the crowning glory must be handed to Rama. Iko Uwais is a wonderful actor and skilled fighter, with his character getting more on-screen fight time than anyone else. Often heavily outnumbered, the way he cuts down wave after wave of thugs is breathtaking, conveying both his skills as a warrior and as a choreographer as it was he and Yayan Ruhian that concocted all of the fight scenes. Every single one is a festival of fist-pounding, bone-crunching, machete-wielding madness that seemingly has no end or limits.
The film’s action never ceases to amaze and the levels of brutality are taken to incredible heights. You’ll often beg for the camera to take its focus off someone but you pleas will go unanswered. A character’s full beating will be shown to you for as long as possible. It is this supreme amount of violence that makes this film stand out amongst the crowd of action flicks this year. It is as relentless as it is merciless.
With editing that never leaves anything to the imagination my point about this film being an exceptional mix of brutality and beauty stands firm. OK, so maybe its plot is paper thin and there’s a distinct lack of character development, but this is not a film that set out to match the levels of narrative structure and depth seen in films like The Shawshank Redemption. Far from it; The Raid wants to strap you to your chair and beat the crap out of you, and in that regard it succeeds in every conceivable way.
Summary: This is certainly one of the finest action movies in recent memory. Your mind will take a pounding on a near-unprecedented scale, though getting to grips with the narrative won't require any mind workout whatsoever. Still, this is action for the sake of action - fight after fight, it'll leave your jaw somewhere south of the floor as you witness hand-to-hand combat on an intensity level that you rarely see these days.