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Indonesia 2011
Directed by
Gareth Evans
101 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

The Raid

Synopsis: Rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is part of a taskforce sent to take into custody a crime lord (Ray Sahetapy) who runs a high rise apartment block of which the police are terrified and every crook on the run hides out in. Quickly discovered, the police are overwhelmed when the doors are locked and a bounty put on their heads. All they can do is fight their way out, so Rama is gonna crack some heads…

You’re onto a winner when a normal cinema audience erupts into spontaneous applause at the end of your climactic fight scene. I haven’t seen people react to a film like this outside of a film festival in years, and it goes to show two things: (i) that The Raid attracts people who will cheer at a good fight scene; (ii) that it is that good that people will cheer.

Seriously, the fights in this film are beautifully choreographed, incredibly brutal and bloodily inventive. Silat, the Indonesian martial art showcased is a fighting style full of elbows and knees, a brawler’s fighting style that still has a lot of elegance to it. It’s mesmerising to watch. But it’s not just fists and feet flying. Machine guns get a workout, as do knives, machetes, and pretty much anything lying around that can be used to harm and maim. There’s also some of the most brutal takedowns I’ve seen in years, with a particularly memorable one involving a guy being thrown from a balcony. I find it hard to believe the film-makers managed that particular stunt without permanently crippling the stuntman. When you see it you’ll know what I mean.

The Raid is one for fight fans and lovers of action cinema. There’s no shaky-cam, just really smartly shot and well-choreographed fights with a set of highly watchable actors working with a basic but solid story. There’s twists and turns that are signalled a mile away, but somehow The Raid avoids the groan-inducing with its genuine commitment. Maybe it’s a language thing and I was distracted by the sub-titles, but for me the actors really sold the story. The fact that this has been picked up for a US remake is head-scratching though. Outside of the amazing fights, there’s nothing here to remake. The plot isn’t much more than an excuse to string together a small mountain of action scenes, so why remake it? Why not just hire these guys to make a film in English? It’s very weird.

In a nutshell, The Raid is like crack-cocaine for lovers of action cinema. It’s a clichéd story without being stupid, and the action is the best I’ve seen for years. The closest is the final knife fight in the 2010 Korean film The Man From Nowhere, but that’s just one fight and this is fight from beginning to end. Go see it if you appreciate good fight choreography that’s well shot and edited.

FYI:There was a 2014 more-of-the-same-but-not-quite-as-good sequel, The Raid 2, also directed by Evans.




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