April 14, 2012
The Raid: Redemption Review
It has been a very long time since a single action movie has come along and knocked you on your ass. Correction: it's been a long time since an American action movie has done this. Let's face it, Hollywood has been manufacturing the same cookie-cutter, stylized fluff for years and peddling it as to audiences who wouldn't know any better. Leave it to Welsh director Gareth Evans and an entirely Indonesian production to come along and show them how it's done.
The story of The Raid (and I refuse to add the silly subtitle Redemption; it was added for American audiences) is really kinda inconsequential and just a setup for the action, but it goes a little something like this. A group of cops attempt to take down a drug kingpin's apartment complex in the slums of Jakarta. When the job goes bad, and entire mob of angry drugheads and gangsters stands between the survivors and freedom. And now we have our action movie.
And what stunning action is on display here! The Raid features some of coolest and best fight choreography in any movie, period. The film never stops or slows down, delivering a relentless assault of visceral thrills and jaw-dropping "oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-that-just-happened" moments. The fighting is fluid and quickly paced, always keeping you on the edge of your seat. One such scene involves our protagonist taking out a hallway full of goons with just a knife and a billy club. And another versus five machete-wielding enemies.
Part of what makes these scenes so effective and mind-blowing is Gareth Evans' direction. Not once does he shake the camera to "make it realistic," but instead gives us a clear view of the violence in long, unedited takes. The film is carefully edited to make the most of the fights, making them far more impressive when two enemies duke it out for what seems like forever. There's very little reliance on CGI or slow-motion, two staples of the modern action movie, but rather Evans uses them sparingly and appropriately. This move is wise, as these two components are much more effective when used in moderation.
One could say that the film really lags in the storytelling department, and yes, what little plot that's there is a bit familiar and cliche. However, the film's goal was never to really tell a story, and because of this it never relies heavily on it's weak plot. It's introduced, set up, and then lets the action take it the rest of the way. Unlike most films, which would constantly throw its weak story in the viewer's face, it addresses what needs to be addressed, then leaves it alone. And that can be forgiven if the rest of the film makes up for it.
And it's safe to say that The Raid absolutely, 100% makes up for such a weak story. It's expertly edited, directed, and paced for an action film, trimming the cheese and fat that often comes with most modern action films. It gives the viewer a highly concentrated dose of adrenaline that doesn't wear off until an hour after the credits have rolled. I have nothing bad to say about it. It's hands down the best action film to be released in years, and you would do yourself an injustice by not seeing it.
It was announced the week that The Raid hit theaters that it was being considered for a Hollywood remake. That is the absolute wrong way to react to this film. Instead, Hollywood directors should learn from The Raid. We can do with a little less shaky-cam and a little more awesomeness. Just leave this one alone.