by Jayden Leggett, Assistant Editor
An action film set in the slums of Jakarta, The Raid (otherwise known as The Raid: Redemption or Serbuan Maut in Indonesian) is a testosterone-fueled machine full of shootouts and kicks to the face from the word “go”.
After a brief introduction to the main character Rama (silat expert Iko Uwais – Merantau) as he shows off his martial arts prowess on a boxing bag and bids farewell to his pregnant wife, the plot begins with a van full of elite Indonesian police who are being briefed on their current mission: to storm (or “raid”, if you will) a scumbag-infested building in the heart of the Jakarta slums that is under the control of a previously untouchable underworld crime lord named Tama Riyadi (veteran Indonesian actor Ray Sahetapy), and put him away for good.
In classic “ruthless ultimate bad guy” fashion, Tama is a remorseless and almost maniacal crime lord who wouldn’t be out of place as a Bond villain, as is evident by the way he uses a hammer to perform an execution when he runs out of bullets. Combined with his two personal guards Andi “The Brains” (Doni Alamsyah – Merantau) and the “maniac of feet and fists” Mad Dog (martial artist Yayan Ruhian – yet another actor from Merantau), the cops definitely have their work cut out for them.
At first their raid on the building goes smoothly, as they take out any opposition and secure each floor before moving on to the next, which reminded me a lot of the way that the police in the television show Cops would clear out a typical crack-house. Unfortunately, they are discovered by a “spotter” who alerts the entire building via the intercom system, and it is then when the stinky-stuff well and truly hits the fan. Snipers in the adjacent building kill the police who are waiting outside, a previously apprehended dirtbag cuts loose with a machete, and a squad of junkies armed with machine guns destroy another significant chunk of the police squad, and it is here where the movie really kicks in to gear.
I was completely captivated by the intensity of the onscreen action, as this point of the movie felt like an action-survival story (similar in style to Behind Enemy Lines) as the few remaining police desperately try to defend themselves and escape a violent death in a hail of bullets. The police that are left alive are total badasses, rolling out of the way of oncoming fire, capping thugs in the face at close range and tossing the occasional perp through a glass window in a desperate attempt to even the odds that are stacked against them. Pathways are opened through floorboards via a fire axe, a refrigerator combined with a gas bottle is transformed into a devastating makeshift bomb, and soon the squad gets split up into two groups, with Rama’s two-man team being my favorite.
Why exactly? Because as Rama escorts his seriously wounded team-mate to safety, he constantly gets attacked my machete-wielding baddies and thus gets to show off his silat prowess. Simply put, this guy is a high-speed flurry of punches and kicks, and the fight choreography is fast-paced and very intense, easily some of the best martial-arts fare I have seen in the past year or so. Let’s face it, the reason anybody would want to watch The Raid is to witness some balls-to-the-wall action, and the hand-to-hand fight sequences are definitely the highlight of this movie. My favorite death would have to be the dude who gets thrown down from a balcony and breaks his spine on the rail a floor below.
There were only a few minor annoyances that prevented me from giving this movie a five star rating, and most of these were to do with certain elements at a couple of stages in the narrative. The idea of Mad Dog holding police sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim – Dead Mine) at the mercy of his gun but then opting to fight him one-on-one in mortal combat seemed a little bit forced (although the fight sequence itself was spectacular), and also removed some of the believability of what was otherwise a surprisingly believable kung-fu flick (which is somewhat of a rarity these days when it comes to over-the-top action movies).
Another unnecessarily cheesy narrative device occurs when a bruised and battered Rama is struggling to go on, but short cutaways are reminding him (and the viewer) of his pregnant wife and how he must live on for her sake. These cutaway shots could have easily been left out and the film would have been better for it, as seeing his wife at the beginning of the movie was enough to establish the fact that Rama has to fight for more than just his own life.
Having gotten those two minor quibbles out of the way, the plot was of an excellent standard overall (especially for an action movie), with twists and unexpected turns further strengthening my empathy for the plight of these last few police members.
Technically the movie has nothing but triumphs. Industrial-rock style music perfectly compliments high-action sequences while providing suspenseful ambience in other parts. The set (which was a combination of found locations and custom built props) looked equal parts sleazy and stunning. My favorite aspect by far was the incredible cinematography. Excellent use of lighting via gun muzzle flairs to illuminate dark areas created beautiful visuals, and the camera work and framing was noting short of masterful. The highlight for me occurred when the police are first about to be ambushed by a group of thugs on the balcony above. Perfectly concealed in darkness, the gun toting bad guys only become visible to the viewer as the camera pans in to reveal them, in a scene that just oozed style and suspense. In fact the entire movie itself just oozed style and coolness, and was incredibly well-done overall.
Blu-Ray special features include a lengthy behind-the-scenes/making of segment (which was incredibly interesting and informative) as well as footage from the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival where the movie was first screened.
The Raid was an adrenaline rush from start to finish, and the slick style of the onscreen action and the creative deaths of many of the characters constantly left me with a huge goofy grin. If you are an action junkie then chances are you already own this movie, if not then you MUST own this flick. If having to read subtitles is a put-off for you, I can confidently say that not once during the movie did reading the onscreen dialogue distract me from the intense action that was occurring. Now you have no excuse at all to not get this movie. So what are you waiting for? Do it! DO IT NOW!
ComicsOnline gives The Raid 4.5 out of 5 junkies getting their spine broken on a balcony rail.