Die Hard, Enter the Dragon, Aliens, Terminator 2 – Judgment Day, The Matrix, the action movie genre has a new great to stand alongside those classics and it’s called The Raid.
Coming from a singularly unlikely source in the form of young Welsh director Gareth Evans this Indonesian film arrives in an explosion of brutal bloody violence detonated with supreme, even boastful confidence onto cinema screens. The plot is kept sensibly simple, young SWAT cop Rama (Iko Uwais), a man soon to become a father is one of a team of rookie officers sent into the lion’s den, an apartment block lorded over by a nasty crime boss with the mission of taking him down. All that stands in their way is the tenants, a highly organized and aggressive bunch of lowlifes who want to go on living there rent free.
The first few floors are taken under control pretty smoothly but it’s not long until their presence is alerted to the rest of the building and carnage ensues, half the team is taken out and a mission to take down a dangerous criminal becomes a desperate fight for survival. The action proceeds at a steady pace, letting up only to let the audience breathe and to give the big bad upstairs some important screen time.
It’s not about plot and the makers know that. Just enough is shown of Rama’s life to make you care about his survival and the rest is stunning choreography, lightning paced fisticuffs and visceral deaths. Uwais carries the complex and hugely demanding physicality beautifully, totally convincing as a resourceful martial artist superman capable of some truly inventive ways of offing his opponents who are a far more threatening proposition than the usual faceless grunts offered up in normal action flick fare.
The camera rarely shies away from showing exactly what’s going on, bullets blowing open skulls, knives slashing apart throats, much of it boldly lit and filmed clearly with out the fashionable shaky-cam cinematography favoured by Bourne. You will see everything that happens very clearly and cringe all the more for it. This is extreme violence and anyone averse to screen brutality should heed its well-earned 18 certificate.
Most battles take place in narrow corridors but there are plenty of more inventive scenes such as one in which the hero’s survival depends on wiping the telltale blood from a machete and another moment involving a fridge and a gas tank. Plus one villain who chooses to fight a cop hand to hand instead of just blowing him away is superb value.
The film is already being cited for a sequel and a Hollywood reboot but don’t wait for the version without subtitles. Films like The Raid are the reason cinema was invented, universally understandable entertainment that transcends language barriers and budgets. Arguably one of the best action movies in years if not decades and one of the greatest the genre has produced.
There are only two reasons why you shouldn’t go to see The Raid, either you don’t like violent films or you’re too young. Everybody else who values screen entertainment should go and see a film that knows what it’s about and delivers greatness.