Directed by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
Putting aside the notion that casual moviegoers will shun Gareth Evans’ balls-out, adrenaline pumping actioner based on their distaste for reading subtitles, the production in question is easily one of the more unique efforts of its type and quite possibly one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of viewing throughout my twenty-four years in existence. Its relentless but warranted gratuitousness and meticulously choreographed fight sequences are unparalleled, and director Evans’ adroitness in handling a film of this type is, to say the least, nothing short of impressive.
From the get-go, we’re able to discern that an elite SWAT team has been recently tasked with the previously impossible: to raid a well-known druglord’s multi-tiered apartment complex and rid it of everything unfavorable, from his maniacal, highly trained lackeys to hard drugs and the paraphernalia coinciding with them. Focusing primarily on rookie Rama (Iko Uwais) as he and his squad infiltrate the facility almost effortlessly, shit soon hits the fan as our heroes make their presence known to the criminal infestation surrounding them. To make matters worse, backup is out of the question seeing how a greedy police lieutenant found it necessary to order the raid for his own personal gain, unauthorized by an outside party. What ensues is a mostly mindless barrage of bloodshed and cracking bones, a majority of which more than makes up forThe Raid’s narrative simplicity.
To be honest, there isn’t much to say about the film outside of that Gareth Evans really knew exactly what he was doing from start to finish. Elaborate single takes and a nonstop kinetic feel, coupled with an ample amount of suspense, transform a straightforward martial arts flick into something much more noteworthy. Sure, we’ve all seen films of its type, however Rama himself isn’t the infallible superhero-type; far from it, as his resolve slowly begins to crumble following the loss of 90% of his squadmates. Thankfully, he’s more or less a fucking steamroller that flattens the big man’s less skilled underlings, prompting Evans to be as ballsy as possible in his depiction of the relentless violence at the film’s core.
In fact, it’s this aspect of The Raid‘s overall presentation that makes it stand out among its more recognizable imitators, unflinchingly showcasing increasingly graphic sequences that feel authentic if appealingly overblown, such as Rama’s inclination to bounce a baddie’s head off a concrete wall like a basketball as the latter slumps down to the floor into a lifeless heap. Rolling over onto someone just to put three bullets in their face at point blank range? Check. Sadly, it’s the questionable humanization of Rama and brother Andi that takes away from the film if only slightly, making me wonder why Evans didn’t just stick to his guns and keep The Raid moving at a nice, violent clip whilst avoiding any semblance of fat that could’ve been trimmed prior to the production’s completion.
In all seriousness, I’ve never been this impressed with something this barebones in relation to its subject matter. Sure, I’ve seen my fair share of martial arts epics, but Gareth Evans’ no-holds-barred mash-up of pulse-pounding firefights and frenetic, expertly executed fight scenes is a borderline perfect experiment. It falters in a few noticeable areas as to be expected, more notably by way of its questionable visual presentation and the mild slip-up I mentioned previously, however the sheer level of engagement brought about by The Raid‘s strongest suits far outweighs anything less desirable.