"One of the most brilliantly compelling actions films you will see in a long, long time..."
Hailed by some as one of the most incredible action films to hit our screens in decades, it's hard not to take such bold statements with a pinch of salt, treating the seemingly overstated comments as you do with any generic movie quotes you come to expect during the publicity of an upcoming film. Yet such a statement is backed up by Gareth Evans' production, in what is one of the most brilliantly compelling actions films you will see in a long, long time.
Set in Indonesia, we begin in the back of a riot van, whilst a SWAT team are being briefed on what is to be a life-threatening operation, as the group of roughly 20 officers must infiltrate a derelict block of flats, where they believe a notorious and violent drug dealer named Tama (Ray Sahetapy) to be, with the intention of fulfilling a long-awaited task of capturing the infamous crime lord.
Tama, backed by his two sidekicks Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and Andi (Doni Alamsyah) has a surprise for the unsuspecting team, as the hundreds of inhabitants living in the apartment block are working for the mobster, and have been instructed to take out their unwanted visitors. The trapped SWAT team, which includes expectant father Rama (Iko Uwais), are reliant on the skilled officer's fighting talent as they must attempt to survive in what has become a fateful situation, whilst Rama is equally as concerned at reconnecting with his brother Andi, despite fighting for opposite sides.
From the very start until the bitter end, Evans’s picture is simply non-stop action, relentless fighting throughout, as the film begins on the way to the tenement, and ends in the very same building - effectively just one long fight, between twenty officers and an army of heartless killers. There is no let-off. With a lack of narrative the film relies heavily on its action, which is complemented perfectly with a bleak aesthetic, adding to the dark and gloomy atmosphere emanating throughout. The music is also perfectly implemented, with a harrowing bass sound pounding away relentlessly, adding much suspense and tension.
It's a very simplistic idea, but exceedingly well executed. There is little back story to any character, as all we know of our leading protagonist Rama is that his partner is expecting a baby. Such a small yet significant nugget of information certainly adds empathy to his character, but you still don't feel as though you know who he really is, adding to the somewhat objective nature to the film, in a feature where so many people are mercilessly killed, there is no need for any personal attachment to anyone in particular.
The only significant sub-plot to complement the fighting is the relationship between Rama and Andi, and how they will come to resolve a situation where they are supposed to kill one another. Yet such a storyline is completely understated, avoiding any mawkishness or sentimentality whilst remaining affecting and authentic.
Uwais is fantastic as our lead, and a real star in the making. Highly-skilled in the art of Silat - the style of martial art undertaken within the film - he manages to combine a natural talent for combat whilst also possessing good looks and an almost rock star persona. Yet Uwais isn't the only incredible fighter within the film, as the countless other characters and extras (there's a lot of them...) are all athletic and agile, creating some fantastic fighting sequences.
Despite the athleticism of the actors being outstanding, you can't take any credit away from Evans, as such fighting talent still needs a platform to be portrayed, and requires skilled filmmaking to create the maximum effect. The cinematography and choreography is sublime, and probably any other words that end in 'graphy' too, creating what are quite literally some of the best fighting scenes I have ever been privileged enough to witness, especially the enticing three way battle between Rama, Andi and Mad Dog.
The Raid: Redemption is quite simply a sublime piece of filmmaking. Intense and exhilarating, it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, and furthermore I have learnt two vital things on the back of seeing this production: One, I need to start paying more attention to movie poster quotes. And two, never, ever, pick a fight with an Indonesian.