When you walk out of a theater with a huge grin plastered from ear to ear, you know you’ve had a good time at the movies. Prepare yourselves for 100 minutes of non-stop cyclonic mayhem, because director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais don’t just blow your mind – they crack your skull open, place a kilo of TNT in it and drop kick the lever.
The Raid: Redemption is not one of the better action films of the past few years, it is one of the best action movies ever made. Between the bat-guano insane martial arts on display and the incredible soundtrack by Mike Shinoda, you barely realize that your jaw has detached itself from your face and fallen on the floor. The film makes you feel like you’re tied with ropes to the roof of a bullet train going at full speed, with your lips attached to a straw that leads to a bottle of your favourite fizzy drink. The plot kicks you in the nuts, the fight choreography punches you in the rear, the camerawork lands a swift elbow in your teeth – and you’ll love every second of it.
The story, though gleefully permeating video game boundaries is ridiculously plausible. An Indonesian SWAT team is on a mission to quietly raid a building in Jakarta and take down a crime lord. Among the team is rookie Rama (Iko Uwais), who has a baby on the way and knows that there’s something iffy about the mission. As expected, the mission goes awry, cover is blown, defecation hits the oscillation and the heavily outnumbered cops plough through the building to the backdrop of raining bullets and knives. Naturally, the setup is but an excuse to put a bunch of good guys in a box full of baddies so that they kick the crap out of each other. But The Raid: Redemption rises over the genre’s dreck because it’s hard to recall the last time a movie celebrated bodily destruction with such originality and panache. Director Evans grits his teeth and irons out all the kinks of his previous (and also criminally underrated) film Merantau and comes out guns blazing, delivering more thrills than those found in decades of Hollywood.
Indonesian star Iko Uwais, using his bare hands slices, dices, stabs, jackhammers through scores and scores of ruffians with the ease of a ballet dancer - not since the inception of Tony Jaa back in 2003 has an action hero so gracefully delivered a resounding fist against the action genre’s cheek. Uwais, who was also in Merantau has the endearing looks of the hero you root, cheer and clap for, and one can’t help but wish for a big budget action movie starring Uwais and Jaa, preferably pit against each other.
The Raid slows down only in the few bits of dialogue, but the tension never recedes, ensuring you constantly remain short of breath. One such squirmy scene involves our hero hiding behind a plastic wall as a baddie repeatedly stabs the wall with a two foot long machete. And by the time the villain’s right hand man Mad Dog comes along and blasts off into a two-against-one fight, you’re left slobbering in your seat in a cathartic state, screaming for more. Moreover, the entire film takes place in real time, so whatever it lacks in storytelling, it makes up for in sheer gut-busting cinematic pizzazz.
One of the biggest achievements of The Raid is that Evans pulls the camera back, and lets you watch the action instead of resorting to cheap tricks like editing. This is the real stuff – long, uncut, unadulterated shots of people inflicting some extraordinary damage upon each other in dazzling ways – it’s pure guilty pleasure, and it makes the most badass Hollywood and even Donnie Yen action films look like romantic comedies. Watch it on the biggest screen possible.
(First published in MiD Day)