The Raid: Redemption is something of a breakthrough for the martial arts genre. That is to say, it kicks all kinds of ass. Director Gareth Evans displays his love for the genre and the style of martial art called Pencak Silat. Between a high octane sense of urgency on behalf of the actors and a kinetic, Danny Boyle-esque styled camerawork. It’s truly a thrill to watch, and martial arts enthusiasts will surely be clamoring in to watch this what will surely be a cult classic on DVD/BR. Keeping with the MA genre, the plot itself is rather simple and straightforward. Evans has acknowledged his love for movies like The Assault on Precinct-13 and the influence is felt strongly here. But don’t let the simplicity fool you: it isn’t about the story, but about a display of unbelievably physical ability and a perfect chemistry between the cinematography and fight sequences. Suffice it to say, you won’t regret seeing it in the theater.
In The Raid, the scenario is quite simple: a SWAT team are sent into a seemingly abandoned building to extract a drug lord who has been renting out rooms to drug addicts and murderers in exchange for their services to him. We hardly take any time introducing our protagonist, Rama (played by Iko Uwais), who is moralistic and determined to accomplish an ulterior motive in this mission, which we know very little about. First off, quiet, soft-spoken Iko Uwais is spectacular at what he does. His athletic ability is unparalleled, something I haven’t seen since Ong Bak’s Tony Jaa. In The Raid, his acting chops aren’t quite as important as his ability to use everything at his disposal to escape an ugly scenario. Make no mistake, this is a throw-everything-you-can-at-your protagonist piece of cinema, and it shines all the more for it.
Of course, the plot isn’t without its twists and turns. Even in the beginning, Evans openly stated that this film was meant to be a show and display for the Pencak Silat style. And it is exactly just that. He also brings out the best in what little the actors have to work with; that is to say that they all competently bring their characters to life. It contains all of the ingredients that comprise a great action movie. Despite some criticisms over the violence and gore, Evans does manage to show us bursts of ugly violence that is portrayed in that way. They aren’t sugarcoated for us, even if the film is loaded with it.
In the battle scenes, it is set up with a stationary camera that allows us to watch in full detail the Pencak Silat style (granted, I don’t know much about it, so I can’t be the judge of how well its shown). This makes for an exhilarating experience--truly a high octane piece of entertainment. This will likely be taken for granted, seeing as a majority of action sequences filmed today are done with a realistic, handheld aesthetic that numerous viewers have complained about (whether it made them nauseous, or just found it annoying). The Raid stays clear from that from the most part, though Evans does use it in several scenes, but luckily, never in the fighting sequences.
The Raid: Redemption is a tremendous amount of fun. It’s sort of an indie film for action/ MA lovers, that will undoubtedly please them. The genre itself has not seen much for many years now, but Raid may just be the shot in the arm it needs to finally put some energy back into a stale genre that was once thriving. It harkens back to a primal sense of action and thrill-seeking. It will likely quench the thirst many of us have for an all-out action film that doesn’t cut corners. It may seem simple, but that is exactly why The Raid pays off so well.