Title: The Raid: Redemption
Director: Gareth Evans
Staring: Ray Sahetapy, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian
Plot: Crime lord Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy) has turned the apartment block were he lives into his own personal fortress, by turning it into a safehouse for the city’s most dangerous murderers, killers, gangsters and other assorted scumbags and in the process making him untouchable by both his rivals and the police. Still despite this an elite team including rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) and led by the driven Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) have now been dispatched to take down Tama once and for all.
Review: Every few years there seems to be either one actor or a country which shakes up the martial arts genre, making up for the years in-between were genre fans have had to generally get by on whatever Direct-to-DVD nonsense that Steven Segal has churned out that month. This is not to say that there haven’t been glimmers of hope over the recent years, with Donnie Yen finally getting some long over due recognition, as well as the likes of Michael Jai White and to an extent Ray Park certainly doing their part to help revive the flagging genre which many would consider way beyond it’s golden days of the 70’s and 80’s, with the last noticeable examples in recent memory coming from Thiland, with Panna Rittikrai bringing us the likes of Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak) and JeeJa Yanin (Chocolate). These new breed of Martial Arts superstars coming with a promise of “No Stuntman, No Equal” as they delivered an exciting blend of thrilling stunt work and bone crunching fight scenes. Now it seems that Indonesia is going to be the next surprising place to find your Martial Arts fix, for “The Raid: Redemption” is not so much the next big thing, but a certified game changer for the genre, for entering into this film even as a veteran of a misspent childhood watching Kung fu movies, I was still blown away by how exhilarating and original a movie that Welsh born and self confessed genre fan director Gareth Evans has crafted here in what is easily another of this years big surprises, even though it would currently be set to be another film which will find its audience now it has been released on DVD after a limited cinema release schedule.
With the plot essentially established within the first fifteen minutes, with our hero Rama being given slightly more depth than the other members of this 20 man squad, as we open to him running through his morning prayers as a devout Muslim before engaging in his grueling training regime to further hone his already impressive martial arts skills, before his kisses his still sleeping and heavily pregnant wife goodbye. It is clear that he is a man trying to do what he can as a cop, to make the world a slightly safer place for his unborn child, with the removal of Tama being another key part of this personal quest.
Entering the building on the ground floor the team have no option to work their way up the building floor by floor, to get to Rama who is for some reason located on the 15th. As to be expected their plans for a covert option are soon thrown out of the window when Rama is alerted to their presence by one of his spotters and offering the tenants free rent to those who kill the SWAT team and in effect mobilising his army of seemingly hundreds. Meanwhile Rama and the others only find their situation worse when they discover that their whole operation has not been sanctioned and meaning that they have no reinforcements or rescue to fall back on.
This film could in many ways be almost be described as a living video game, with it’s simple plot and the fact that dialogue kept to minimum, with this film taking the old saying of “Actions speak louder than words” to a whole new level, while each floor the team clears almost feels like a level completed, with the bad guys attacking in disorganized groups, with many of the SWAT team’s opponents seemingly taking a number for their beat down as few bother to attack at the same time that another thug is fighting. Needless to say the fight scenes will be the reason you see this film and it pays out in spades as it provides a real showcase for “Silat” the Indonesian martial art style, which focuses on strikes, joint manipulation, throws aswell as the use of bladed weaponry, with the style being used to powerful effect here, especially to western audiences more familiar with the traditional Kung Fu and Kickboxing styles which have been favoured in martial arts movies, while more recent films such as Donnie Yen’s “Flashpoint” have seen the introduction of mixed martial arts. It goes without question though that Silat is yet another highly filmable style, as clearly shown here with it use of quick attacks and devastatingly powerful ground based attacks.
The promotion of this indigenous fighting style was a key reason for director Evans to make this movie, as he was looking for a project which he could build upon his fascination of the fighting style and promote it to international audiences with the films original conception as a large scale prison gang movie, only for time restraints to see it scaled down to it’s current form, which ultimately has proven to be a great decision with the hallways and shoe box sized apartments bringing a claustrophobic atmosphere to the film, aswell as a real sense of danger to what the SWAT team are facing, especially during the early scenes were they are forced to hole up in a room fighting off a rabid horde of Tama’s followers.
The cast are all fantastic with Sahetapy proving himself a powerful mixture of sleazy slumlord and skillful and intelligent tactitian, though sadly not a fighter which would be more disappointing if it was not for Uwais who not only provides a sufficient amount of fight scenes to cover for this anticlimactic encounter and proves himself a star in the making and bringing back memories of Tony Jaa in “Ong-Bak”, as he showcases his impressive catalogue of moves, with incredible smoothness aswell as speed, yet still containing a street fighting edge, as fights frequently contain moments of seeming pure improvisation, meanwhile Yayan Ruhian who appears here as head thug “Mad Dog” a man who’d rather beat his opponents with his fists than shoot them, really provides a suitable challenge especially when the big evil of the film isn’t a fighter, leaving Mad Dog to handle his fights, which he more than happily does even taking on two opponents at the same time in the climatic fight scene which clocks in at an impressive 15 mins of non-stop fighting which when it had ended was greeted by a rousing round of applause by the audience attending the screening I was at, something I had only experienced twice previously when the mother ship blew up in “Independence day” and the second being when Bruce the shark got blown up in “Jaws”, but it is really a credit to the quality of the fight scenes on offer here, that it sparked such feelings in an audience.
Needless to say this film won’t appeal to everyone, especially for those of you whom find the prospect of 90+ minutes of pure bone crunching fight scenes, more than a little tiresome, meanwhile genre fans especially those of you who like your martial arts fast and brutal and action relentless will no doubt have a blast and hungry for more.