By Don Simpson | August 13, 2012
Director: Gareth Huw Evans
Writer: Gareth Huw Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Satrya, Iang Darmawan, Eka ‘Piranha’ Rahmadia, Verdi Solaiman
The most impressive piece of cinema I have seen in a very long time just so happens to be one of the most violent. Consider this a fair warning, The Raid: Redemption is not for the faint of heart. Viewers should also take into consideration that a film with such a relentless, rapid-fire pacing of fight sequences will certainly not focus much on narrative or character development.
A SWAT team led by Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) storms a dilapidated Jakarta apartment building in order to take down an evil drug lord, Tama (Ray Sahetapy). One of the police officers is Rama (Iko Uwais), who is about to become a father. We should instantly recognize from this fleeting tidbit of background information that Rama has something worth fighting for. This also reveals Rama as strongest candidate to be the hero of the story; which is somewhat unfortunate because since the cast is unrecognizable for most Western audiences, we would otherwise have no way of knowing who (if anyone) might survive this situation. Because, yes, the SWAT team eventually stirs up the hornets’ nest and soon they are bum-rushed by a seemingly never-ending flow of mindless fighting machines with one mission: Kill! Kill! Kill! The SWAT team is quickly reduced to a token few and Rama realizes that he is one of the only good guys left in a claustrophobic world of amoral people. Heck, even his brother is a bad guy…
There is a very clever, multi-faceted analogy made to an infestation of insects. As the SWAT team sees it, the building is infested by both the supply and demand sides of the drug trade; but Tama perceives his building as being overrun by bothersome cops. As I see it, The Raid: Redemption is more like a zombie or alien infestation, in that the bad guys just keep coming and they seem practically unbeatable. My favorite baddie is Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), a ruthless fighter who refuses to use any weapons or props. I am all for any character in an ultra-violent film who essentially says that weapons are for wusses and if you are not willing to go toe-to-toe with your adversary, then you are clearly a Muppet of a man.
Despite my aversion to on screen violence, it is difficult to deny the masterful choreography of The Raid: Redemption; most importantly, though, there is no glorification of the violence. The Raid: Redemption is a dark and brutal film in which every violent act is portrayed as totally senseless. I do not watch many ultra-violent films, but The Raid: Redemption has the most fight sequences that I have ever witnessed. Every single contact looks, sounds and feels so bone-crushingly real that I keep expecting the actors to be unable to follow through with their scene. Writer-director Gareth Huw Evans is clearly one of those people who scoffs at the inherent falsity of most fight sequences in cinema. With The Raid: Redemption, he shows us all exactly how it is done. The Raid: Redemption travels light-years beyond the fight sequences featured in any Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, or Clint Eastwood film. It even kicks John Woo, Park Chan-wook, Takashi Miike, Quentin Tarantino and John Carpenter’s collective asses. Yes, this film is all about the spectacle. It is about setting up and pulling off one mind-blowing fight sequence after another for 100 minutes.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s unrated Blu-ray (and DVD) release of The Raid: Redemption is loaded with bonus features, including: a commentary with writer-director Gareth Evans; behind-the-scenes video blogs with Evans; “Inside the Score”, a trailer teaser for Mike Shinoda’s first feature score; The Raid TV Show Ad (circa 1994), a spoof of a 1994 Japanese anime TV commercial created by Phil Askin; Claycat’s The Raid, Lee Hardcastle’s UK claymation short film featuring a score by Shinoda; and several featurettes.