THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW.
OVERVIEW: I’m not going to kid you, The Raid is not for everyone. It’s non-stop violence, with dead and broken bodies everywhere and not much more plot than, “Here be drug lords. Get ’em!”
But it was a great movie. You don’t have to be a martial arts fan to like it. (I’m not, and I did.)
THE PLOT IN BRIEF: A drug lord in Jakarta has taken over an entire apartment building over the years, such that it is now filled with goons and bad guys, all involved with the trade and completely loyal to him. A team of rookie cops has to get through the bad guys and take the drug lord down. Once they get into the building, however, THINGS DO NOT GO ACCORDING TO PLAN. (Now that I think of it, even if things had gone according to plan… it was really just a bad plan to begin with.)
It’s a typical shoot-out movie in the beginning but soon both sides run out of ammo (though not ALL of the bullets are gone…) and from then on it’s all hand-to-hand combat (and machete to machete, and elbow to forehead, etc.)
And it is amazing. (Bloody, ruthless, cringe-in-your-seat violent, but amazing). Director Gareth Evans showcases pencak silat, an indigenous Indonesian fighting style not often seen in this country. (Fun fact: “Pencak is the performance aspects of the martial art, while silat is the essence of the fighting and self-defense. It is often said by practitioners that there can be no silat without pencak, on the other hand pencak without silat skills is purposeless.” Thanks Wiki!)
The last martial arts movie I enjoyed this much was “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” [2003, also from Sony Classic Pictures]. I saw it because reviewers I respected said it was poetic and beautiful and that even someone who doesn’t like martial arts movies might like it. The Raid is perhaps not poetic or beautiful, but it’s beautifully choreographed, and though the plot is thin, there wasn’t a moment when I thought, “Here are martial artists playing characters in a film.” It’s not easy to judge acting in a foreign language film, but I thought the actors were credible.
See The Raid in a theater now, if possible (my brother-in-law had to travel OUT OF STATE to see it). It’s a big screen experience (and reassuring to know you’re not the only one who makes odd involuntary shrieky sounds when other people get hit).
But then after you see it you should buy it on DVD or some other format where you can hit Pause and Rewind. There were a lot of scenes in this movie where, if we were at home, I would have made my husband hit “rewind” because the choreography was so fast and furious it was hard to tell exactly how a person went from “terrifying aggressor” to “dead guy on floor.”
There will be a sequel to The Raid: Redemption, tentatively The Raid: Retaliation. That’s good news.
There will also be a Hollywood remake. That’s perplexing. Why??? The fight scenes in The Raid were choreographed by two of the main actors in the film, Iko Uwais (hero rookie cop) and Yayan Ruhian (the drug lord’s maniacal hitman), and apparently they are being looked at to do the remake, too. But… why? So different, American actors can do the same deadly dances?
I don’t usually follow “martial arts movie news,” but I will for this one.