‘Raid’ Offers Escapist Violence, Good Editing

Eric Bourse, El Vaquero Staff Writer

Welsh director Gareth Evans’ first attempt at an Indonesian martial arts film, “Merantau,” received a modest reception back in 2009 for its frenetic action and use of the martial art known as Silat. “The Raid: Redemption,” written and directed by Evans, tops his rookie effort tenfold.

The plot is simple: A rookie SWAT team breaches a 15-story apartment complex in the slums. Their mission is to take out Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy), a ruthless crime lord whose building, a safe haven for the meanest and most violent criminals, has had multiple break-in attempts by rival gangs and various police squads in the past with no luck.

The novice team’s success isn’t different. After clearing the first couple of floors, all hell breaks loose and only a handful of officers are left wobbling and must fight their way out. Unfortunately for them, scores of bad guys wielding machine guns, knives and machetes stand in their way.

Iko Uwais, who starred in “Merantau,” returns as Evans’ protagonist in “The Raid.” Uwais plays Rama, a young SWAT officer who must do anything it takes to save his remaining team members and return home to his pregnant wife.

The film’s action scenes are engaging and filled to the brim with excitement. Every time it seems a fight scene in “The Raid” can’t be topped, the next one raises the stakes and exceeds it. This continues over the entire length of the movie.

Uwais, who co-choreographed the fight scenes, is absolutely spectacular during his many brawls. The three-man rumble at the end of the film is especially thrilling and vicious.

Yayan Ruhian, who plays the henchman Mad Dog, also has standout moments in the film including his death match with the SWAT team’s captain, played by Joe Taslim.

“The Raid” can be considered to be an action film in a horror setting, similar to John Carpenter’s 1976 cult classic, “Assault on Precinct 13.” The corridors are narrow and grimy and the dead bodies are everywhere. Instead of zombies and ghosts, menacing mobs of machete-wielding henchmen wait behind every corner, ready to cut down Rama and his few surviving men to pieces.

Evans’ direction in the film is above and beyond the usual standards audiences would expect from today’s Hollywood action films today. Once the action starts, the pace never slows down, but it isn’t tiresome.

The camerawork and editing work brilliantly together during the countless fight scenes and don’t get lost in the violent chaos. One notable shot in the film occurs when Rama drops down a makeshift hole and the camera drops with him. The film is peppered with these very slick camera shots and gives “The Raid” a unique look.

The film’s score by Mike Shinoda (from rap-rock group Linkin Park) and Joseph Trapenese, who collaborated with Daft Punk on the music of “Tron: Legacy” (2010), is just as visceral and exciting as the action in the film itself. Fans of Trent Reznor’s work on albums such as “Year Zero” (2007) as well as his soundtrack of “The Social Network” (2010) will be able to hear his strong influences as “The Raid’s” electronic score simmers during the buildup scenes creating a tension filled mood and explodes with crunchy synthesizers and drum beats that work in harmony to drive the kinetic onscreen violence.

The movie won’t win any awards for its story, despite its plot twists, but that doesn’t matter. The action is a nonstop and brutal spectacle that will have audiences talking for years to come. In combination with its excellent directing, editing and soundtrack, “The Raid: Redemption,” shouldn’t be missed.

The movie is rated R for strong bloody brutal violence throughout and language and runs for 101 minutes.

4 out of 5 stars