By Shane M. Dallmann
Our hero is a devout Muslim and dedicated family man who’s expecting an infant son in the near future. He has limited backup because his Lieutenant has Something To Hide. Our villain is a violent, ultra-sadistic drug lord, and he’s got backup both inside and out of his tenement fortress. There. That’s all you need to know about the plot and the characters.
And that title? THE RAID: REDEMPTION (the original title translated to “Deadly Invasion,” which went straight to the point) is reminiscent of such monikers as RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, and that’s actually quite appropriate, as much of this film does, indeed, play like a “zombie siege” video game.
It’s easy to see why Roger Ebert hated this: when compared to other “ultraviolence” films of recent vintage, THE RAID (to keep it short) doesn’t have the history and poetry of 13 ASSASSINS, the satire of Luc Besson’s DISTRICT 13 productions (or any comic relief whatsoever, for that matter), or the political fury of ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN. It’s a pure, straight-up MAYHEM movie… but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Gareth Evans (this is not an Anglicized pseudonym: the writer/director of this Indonesian film is a native Welshman) has an undeniable flair for high-impact action, and his cast and crew are unquestionably up to delivering the goods.
Now, there’s no shortage of CGI gore or chattering automatic weapons tearing people apart. However, the firepower (for the most part) runs out at a fairly early point, giving the stage over to the non-simulated martial arts battles (we’re treated to the Indonesian style known as “Pencak Silat” here) that truly sell the film–now that we’ve been treated to plentiful parkour and Muay Thai epics, here’s something to revitalize martial arts cinema all over again. Why, we even have a villain who deliberately eschews gunplay (which he amusingly compares to “ordering takeout”) in favor of hand-to-hand combat: and let’s be fair–he’s not doing that for the sake of the story; he’s doing that for YOU, the viewer, and I imagine you’ll be most appreciative.
Evans drives the action relentlessly, slowing down only for the occasional story curveball and one hell of a terrific suspense setpiece involving an impromptu “hidey-hole.” Essentially, if you were lured by the promise of non-stop, bone-crunching action, THE RAID is going to live up to your expectations. Well, except for one in my case–as one of the characters is named “Jaka,” I was hoping for a Barry Prima cameo. But you can’t have everything.
You already know whether or not you want to see this. If you do, you will NOT be disappointed.