- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ko Uwais is a very lucky man. Not only was he plucked from obscurity and transformed into the next great martial arts action hero, but unlike his predecessors, he's been blessed with an incredibly talented filmmaking partner in Gareth Evans. The Welsh-born writer/director's latest movie, “The Raid: Redemption,” has been gaining buzz since its premiere last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason, because action movies don’t get much cooler or more exhilarating than this. Whereas Evans’ first Indonesian-language feature with Uwais (2009's "Merantau") boasted a few cool fight sequences but was an otherwise mediocre film, “The Raid” is an unrelenting, action-packed can of whoop-ass that delivers one of the most fun moviegoing experiences of the past decade.
There’s not a whole lot to the story, but the first ten minutes do a great job of setting the stage for the events to come. Uwais stars as a rookie SWAT team member who's part of a covert mission to take down a ruthless crime lord named Tama (Ray Sahetapy) who operates out of a decrepit apartment complex populated with other low-life scum. Although the invasion initially goes according to plan as they work their way to the top of the building, restraining its criminal tenants as they go along, when the team’s cover is blown and they’re locked inside, the surviving members must shoot, stab, punch and kick their way through an army of killers to get out alive. But while the line between good and evil is plainly drawn in the sand, both sides hold secrets that could be destructive.
Though the plot is pretty elementary, Evans still finds time to inject little bits of character development during the brief lulls in the action. He's also smart to involve the rest of the cast in the fight scenes, because while Uwais is very much the main attraction, it's fun to see some of the other actors, like Joe Taslim and Doni Alamsyah, get a chance to shine as well. In fact, Yayan Ruhian, who plays Tama’s right-hand man Mad Dog, even manages to upstage Uwais in two of the film's more memorable fights. These guys could probably sell tickets performing this stuff on the street, but Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese's score adds a rhythmic energy that takes it to a whole other level.
“The Raid” is a bone-crunching, testosterone-pumping freight train of destruction that barely lets you catch your breath once it gets going. It’s about as close to non-stop, wall-to-wall action that I’ve ever seen, and a big part of what makes it so jaw-droppingly awesome is the amazing fight choreography, including what is easily some of the best close-quarters combat ever committed to film. Every single fight is more creative, more complex and more intense than the last, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, Evans launches into yet another bloody battle. Being exposed to this much action would normally get tiresome after a while, but Evans shoots each sequence with such visual flair (with the camera itself practically becoming a part of the choreography) that it’s like watching a ballet being performed – only, you know, with machine guns and machetes.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Sony has packed the Blu-ray release with a ton of bonus material, the best of which is an audio commentary by writer/director Gareth Evans where he talks about the film’s inception, its various influences, and shooting the fight sequences. Also included are 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a Q&A with Evans, Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese, a short featurette about the movie’s score, additional interviews and more.