|Director: Gareth Evans |
|Screenplay: Gareth Evans|
|Stars: Iko Uwais (Rama), Joe Taslim (Jaka), Doni Alamsyah (Andi), Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog), Pierre Gruno (Wahyu), Ray Sahetapy (Tama), Tegar Satrya (Bowo), Iang Darmawan (Gofar), Eka “Piranha” Rahmadia (Dagu), Verdi Solaiman (Budi)|
|MPAA Rating: R|
|Year of Release: 2011 / 2012|
|Country: Indonesia / U.S.|| I am not sure who is redeemed at the end of The Raid: Redemption, but I am pretty sure that it doesn’t matter. The third film from Welsh-born writer/director Gareth Evans and the second starring Iko Uwais, an Indonesian martial artist who Evans discovered when shooting footage for a documentary at his silat school in Jakarta, The Raid: Redemption is a no-frills, straightforward celebration of ass-kickery in all its many hyperviolent manifestations, some of which you may not have previously known existed. Action movie junkies have been salivating over its clever combination of high-speed martial arts prowess and seedy exploitation vibe, and the film has a certain panache that is undeniable and goes a long way toward making you forget how truly wafer-thin the story really is.|
The film’s first 10 minutes provide a quick set-up, introducing us first to Uwais’ Rama, a rookie police officer who works in a special-ops unit. Evans establishes his unironic goodness by depicting him praying, working out with great intensity, and kissing the round belly of his expectant wife, who lies angelically in bed as he heads off to work. We then cut to the inside of an armored truck, where Rama and 19 other heavily armored officers (and the audience) are informed by their commander, Jaka (Joe Taslim), of the day’s mission: Infiltrate a highrise slum housing project and take out Tama (Ray Sahetapy), a particularly brutal gang lord who we first see executing five bound and gagged men in his office with point-blank shots to the head (when his gun runs out of bullets on the last man, he calmly goes back to his desk, opens a drawer full of bullets and a hammer, and chooses the hammer). The problem is not only that Tama is carefully guarded by his two right-hand men, Andi (Doni Alamsyah), the brains of the operation, and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), whose name is self-explanatory, but also that virtually every creepy, sleazy, homicidal-psychotic freak living in the building answers to his beck and call, providing a ready-made army to rise up against anyone who would dare enter uninvited.
Thus, the goal for the special ops unit is to move through the building stealthily floor by floor, taking out or tying up all the residents until they get to the top. Unfortunately, that only works for the first few floors, and soon the alarm has been sounded and the wastrels and deviants (all of whom are skilled martial artists, natch) flood the hallways, killing anyone wearing a police uniform. It doesn’t help that Rama and Jaka quickly realize that their mission is not exactly on the up-and-up, which means that no backup is headed their way. The few surviving cops are essentially trapped inside 30 greasy, graffiti-covered floors of bedlam with little hope for escape. There are a few additional plot twists here and there, but they really add up to very little, as the film’s incessant focus is on exploring all the various means by which men can injure and kill each other using whatever weapons are at their disposal, whether it be their owns hands and feet or machetes, knives, and other sharp instruments.
For about its first half, The Raid: Redemption provides a bracing, vicarious thrill, the gruesomeness of its wantonly explicit violence always held in check by the clearly fantastical nature of both the set-up and the highly choreographed fight scenes. Uwais is a duly impressive physical specimen, and he fights with a palpable intensity that makes you cheer for him even though he’s as one-dimensional hero with no discernable personality outside of simple determination, which can carry audience involvement only so far. Action junkies who can’t get enough hacking, chopping, and slashing will come out completely satiated, but others (myself included) may very well start feeling numb by the last half hour, beaten down by so many hundreds—if not hundreds of thousands—of colliding body parts, impalements, lacerations, and yelling (oh, the yelling, the incessant yelling!). Evans has a knack for staging intense violence, and the fight choreography by Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, is never short of amazing in its mix of dexterity and brutality (think Jackie Chan crossed with a slasher movie). But, in the end, there is simply too much of it all, and with no meaningful characters to hold onto, at some point the highs of exhilaration devolve into simple exhaustion.
Copyright ©2012 James Kendrick
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
All images copyright © Sony Pictures Classics