SXSW FILM 2012
By Linc Leifeste | March 12, 2012
Director: Gareth Evans
Writers: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Satrya
Probably a little shocking for those who know me and know that I’m generally not a big fan of ultra-violent action movies, but I can’t gush enough about this film. I can’t remember the last time that a film of this genre kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, probably because it’s never happened. I also found myself squinting while slightly averting my gaze to only partially register some of the many violent (and I’ll admit, entertaining) deaths.
To be honest, plot takes a backseat to the action, but that’s not nearly as much of a detriment as one might think. The basic premise is that Rama (Iko Uwais) is part of an elite force of police that has been tasked with raiding a high-rise building infested with drug abusers, murderers and all varieties of violent criminals, a world unto itself completely under the control of crime lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy) and his two violent henchman Andi (Doni Alamsyah) and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian). The cops must first find a way into the building and then work their way up to the 15th floor, where Tama sits God-like above his residents, seeing and controlling everything with a system of cameras and microphones and armed goons.
Without giving away the plot twists, good-guy Rama soon finds that not everyone on his force may be trustworthy, but that turns out to not be his biggest concern as Tama is soon aware of the police presence despite their best efforts at staying undetected. What follows is pure adrenaline as the police forces find themselves trapped within the building, escape not even an option, as they’re being picked off one by one. Equal parts action, martial arts and horror, The Raid‘s breakneck in-your-face pace never truly lets up but amazingly, unlike most action movies, manages to never overload the viewer who is open to its visceral delights. Part of its success is in the alternation between intense gunfights and more personal hand to hand combat scenes, along with a few machete interludes, with just enough time devoted to minimal plot development and dialogue to allow the viewer to momentarily catch his breath. As well, the film masterfully builds up and releases tension over and over. There are a couple of scenes involving an intensely frightening machete-wielding bad-guy that will have you breaking out in a cold sweat.
Set in Indonesia and featuring English subtitles, I couldn’t help but think several times during the movie that it’s only going to be a matter of time before there’s an American re-make. In fact, the one film that sprang to mind for me during the screening was Infernal Affairs, which Scorsese later remade into The Departed. But take my word, in both cases, the original won’t be beat. Not for the faint of heart, The Raid is one of the most exhilarating and original films I’ve seen, one capable of bringing out the action movie junkie buried deep down inside of even me.