What are the elements of a good action film? What is it we look for when we get ready to watch an action film? Is is the star of the film? The special effects? How about a director with a good reputation for making films in this genre? Are these any of the elements that you look for in a good action film? What if I told you that I just saw a movie that basically has none of the above but is one of (If not the) best action films I’ve ever seen? What if I told you that I just saw an action film that basically left me & the audience I saw it with short of breath at it’s conclusion? What do you guys know about a film called “The Raid: Redemption”? Well let me tell ya about it…
The plot of the film (Written & directed by Gareth Evans) is not very complicated at all. It deals with a Indonesian SWAT team that has a mission to mount an assault on a rundown tenement building that houses all sorts of criminals inside of it’s walls. One of the biggest crime bosses in the country is safely ensconced on the top floor of this building and the ultimate goal is to arrest him and get him to prison. Unfortunately for them, the surrounding area & the building itself have spotters at the ready to sound the alarm if they see trouble coming. And of course…the spotters do their jobs very well.
The building itself is where the film takes place (After the first 15 minutes or so) and it is 15 floors of filth, grime & an armed criminal (or 12) on every floor. The bad guys are everywhere, they’re in every nook and cranny, hiding inside of every shadow, waiting for the opportunity to take out a SWAT member or two in order to win the prize offered to anyone who can prove they killed one of the assault team. That prize being the gift of living in the building for free…without having to pay for the protection that it provides to them.
The member of the team that is the focus of the film is named Rama (Iko Uwais), who has a pregnant wife at home who he loves & adores but he knows he has a job to do and is resolute in his determination to be successful on the day of the big mission. We get a quick hint at his fighting skill in the first few minutes of the film when we see him working out and all you can see is his flying fists/elbows beating on a training device. On the day of the mission we’re introduced to the other SWAT members and find out that most of them aren’t adequately trained for the mission. There is a traitor amongst them and he’s leading these lambs to a slaughter…but why? And will he be found out before it’s too late?
It’s at this point that “The Raid: Redemption” becomes something more than your standard action film. In essence the film tosses together elements from a slew of other movies. It’s got bits of “Assault On Precinct 13”, “The Gauntlet”, “Game Of Death”, “Ong Bak”, “The Wild Bunch” & a whole bunch of other better known films but despite wearing it’s cinematic influences on it’s sleeve, it transcends these (And all other action films) in the most violently satisfying way imaginable.
I cannot imagine a way to convincingly describe what I saw taking place on the screen in front of me. It was something like a fever dream filled with hands, feet, knees & elbows. You can toss in the occasional bullet to the temple as well but while there are guns here, they aren’t being used much here. There isn’t much time for the characters to get many shots off when you’re being assaulted on all sides by crazed machete wielding henchmen. Each fight scene left me in a ever escalating state of breathlessness. I had no idea how Evans was going to be able to top what I had just seen yet he managed to force me to lose some more of my ever so precious breath every 8-10 minutes or so. I had no idea that you could kill someone in so many f*cking ways, with no weapons but your hands & feet (And in one AMAZING scene, a fridge & a can of propane).
“The Raid: Redemption” seems to exist only to beat the sh*t out of anyone who watches it. This is a goal it attains most handily! And just when you think it is about to end with the (Expected) penultimate battle between the good guy & the bad guy, director Evans manages to throw in a twist that made the entire audience gasp with excitement! I FELT the excitement coming off of each and every person in the theater as this final scene began to unfold and none of us were disappointed when it was over as it is one of the most intricate, violent & bloody fight scenes ever put to celluloid. I don’t think it can ever be beat for it’s incredible mix of amazing choreography, speed & brutal violence. It is that intense and when it (And the film) was over, the entire audience applauded as if they were witness to the greatest film ever made. All of us were completely exhilarated as we walked out of the theater. And like me, many of us were simply out of breath, as if we had taken more of a few of those precision blows to our chests. I was quite literally pounded into submission by this movie.
The cast, led by Iko Uwais is precision perfect. But keep in mind that these men weren’t paid to act, they were paid to convincingly beat the living sh*t out of us (& each other). This is something that they do with a sense of aplomb that only psychotic madmen should enjoy, but there is a beauty & a joy to the violence on display here. An amazing ballet of hands & feet that is both repulsive & mesmerizing. You will be horrified by some of the more extreme kills in this film but you’ll be amazed at them at the same time. I should mention Yayan Ruhian, who plays “Mad Dog”. That’s it…that’s his characters name. He is described early in the movie as a “Flurry of hands and feet” but that is far too mild a description. Ruhian isn’t a big man, as a matter of fact he is dwarfed by nearly every character he faces off against but make no mistake…he is the most frightening villain I’ve seen in a film in years. I just don’t know how he pulled off some of the moves he displays here. He’s no “Flurry”, he’s a f*cking category 5 tornado…
The entire film is a freakin’ tornado of blood, bullets & broken bones. It’s the biggest shot of cinematic adrenalin I’ve ever seen & if you don’t see this movie you are going to miss an experience that is near life altering. I’m dead serious acolytes, this is the real thing…you have never seen ANYTHING like this movie. It will leave you in need of oxygen when it’s all over & you will recognize that action cinema has a new hero named Gareth Edwards. I am strictly heterosexual but as soon as the film was over & I caught my breath, I managed to find him (He attended the screening and participated in a rousing Q & A session afterwards) and profess my new found love for him. That’s right acolytes…I wanna have this man’s children! And I told him so, I have no shame…none at all.
Much to my horror, he announced that there will be an American remake of the film that he will NOT be directing (He will be the executive producer though). I really don’t see how this film could be remade here but I’m not gonna dwell on that for now. I have seen perfection and I want to keep that memory fresh in my mind for as long as I can. See “The Raid: Redemption” by any means necessary, you will not be disappointed. And even if by some manic stretch of the imagination you don’t like it, keep it to yourself. You do not want to answer your front door & find “Mad Dog” on the other side of it, that man will MESS YOU UP…
The best film of the year by far. Five out of five smashed to smithereens shrouds! Miss it at your peril!!
The Raid: Redemption is now available on Bluray per Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The Raid: Redemption (2011)