The Raid (2011)

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It’s funny nowadays to look back at my review for Merantau for two reasons. The first is that I hadn’t been writing for Flickfeast for all that long and it kind of shows. I could go back and tweak it and beef it up, maybe, but it is what it is. I like to leave my reviews once I’ve done them, unless I am then retooling them for a larger article, and that review may not be among my very best but it sums up the movie and my feelings about it.  The second reason that it’s funny to look back at that review now is because here I am over two years later about to review The Raid, safe in the knowledge that while I may have been a bit late to the party, as it were, I can safely point to that review of Merantau and remind people that I praised writer-director Gareth Evans and action star Iko Uwais before most people knew who the hell they were. Ha! Okay, okay, that’s actually just my way of convincing myself that coming along after everyone else has already seen The Raid and pretty much reiterating what everyone else has already said doesn’t make me completely redundant.

To be honest, everything that you’ve already heard about The Raid is completely true. I had two versions of this review planned in my head. One version had a LOT of swearwords in it. People often say that swearing is a sign of a limited vocabulary. I disagree. Sometimes the best way to convey shock, amazement, jaw-dropping cinema, etc, is with some well-placed profanity. No need to worry, however, I have gone with the clean version.

Here is all you need to know: a bunch of police officers are raiding a tenement building that houses an “untouchable” criminal kingpin when their presence is discovered, alarms are set off and things quickly go from bad to very, very bad indeed. There are soon numerous casualties on both sides of the battlefield (and it IS a battlefield) and the only man (Iko Uwais) who seems to have the slightest chance of getting out alive has a hell of a lot of enemies standing in his way.

Remember that great sequence in Warrior King when Tony Jaa walks up the flights of stairs, disposing of opponents quickly and mercilessly? Multiply that by twenty and you have this movie. The Raid takes many familiar elements from the action movie genre and still comes up with something that redefines what the genre can give to audiences. It doesn’t just raise the bar, it kicks it right up to the top of the featured building and then throws every other measuring stick out of the windows to lie, broken and dying, on the ground outside.

Gareth Evans keeps things moving at a perfect pace. The film doesn’t hurtle along from start to finish but it certainly feels that way. There is just enough time to catch your breath in between each fight scene, with each scene being nicely shot and edited to show off the speed and moves of those involved. The only area in which the film falls down slightly, and why it avoids a perfect score, is in the twists and turns of the plot. These are too obvious to spot BUT they are still welcome and enjoyable in a strange way (perhaps because those moments help to keep that perfect pace that Evans has created).

You may expect some terrible acting here but you’d be wrong. Oh, the action is always the main concern but the acting from everyone onscreen is just fine, especially from Iko Uwais (and I’m not just saying that because he could obviously break both of my arms, legs and all of my ribs with his little finger). Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy and Tegar Satrya are among the many other actors doing a great job onscreen.

Did I also mention that the action was superb? Perhaps I didn’t make the point well enough. This is the kind of kick-ass action set-piece after set-piece that will have you flinching as you wonder just how many on-set injuries there were. It’s jaw-droppingly good, bone-crunchingly painful, inventive and vicious and just generally pretty effin’ amazing (phew, almost slipped up there but used the clean version again). I don’t know how I’m going to remain patient while the sequel is being made. In fact, I don’t know how I am going to judge all other action movies after this one.

The Raid smashes its way to DVD and Bluray on 24th September and the UK disc (with commentary track, etc) is something I recommend as an essential purchase.

WRITER/DIRECTOR: GARETH EVANS
STARS: IKO UWAIS, JOE TASLIM, DONNY ALAMSYAH, YAYAN RUHIAN, PIERRE GRUNO, RAY SAHETAPY, TEGAR SATRYA
RUNTIME: 101 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: INDONESIA, USA

Film Rating: ★★★★½

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