Thursday, April 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Raid Redemption

The Raid: Redemption ***
Directed by: Gareth Evans.
Written by: Gareth Evans.
Starring: Iko Uwais (Rama), Joe Taslim (Jaka), Doni Alamsyah (Andi), Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog), Pierre Gruno (Wahyu), Ray Sahetapy (Tama), Tegar Satrya (Bowo), Iang Darmawan (Gofar), Eka 'Piranha' Rahmadia (Dagu), Verdi Solaiman (Budi).

The Raid Redemption begins with a quiet moment of its `hero` Rama (Iko Uwais) doing his Muslim duty and praying. He then kisses his pregnant wife goodbye, and tells his father that I`ll bring him back, and heads off to work for a SWAT team. Their job for the day will be to infilitrate the apartment building owned by Tama (Ray Sahetapy), a murderous drug lord. He has his drug lab on site, and has filled most of the apartments with the worst occupants you can find. No one goes into that building, because going in means death. For the next two hours, that is precisely what happens. The movie is short on plot and character development, and long on action – every conceivable kind you can name, from brutal guns battles, to hand to hand martial arts combat, to stabbings to torture and everything in between. After those morning prayers, the movie doesn’t take another minute to breath.

The Raid Redemption doesn’t concern itself with anything other than pure action. From the moment the fighting starts in this movie, it doesn’t let up until it’s over. How many people die in this movie? I think it’s pretty much impossible to tell. There are so many people shot, stabbed and beaten to death, so many who have their necks snapped, or get impaled on something that you quickly lose count. Because none of the characters are really established as anything other than a series of sweaty faces, you don’t have an emotional reaction to all the deaths – except for exhilaration. This is a movie in the tradition of old school Hong Kong action filmmaking that prizes action and movement over everything else. Many will be reminded of John Woo’s pre-Hollywood output, which is about as high a compliment as I can think of. But the movie also reminded me of silent movies. You don’t watch the films of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin for its deep plots or character development – but for the pure joy of movement. The Raid Redemption is the same way.

I cannot really argue with a review like Roger Ebert’s of this film when he compares it to a video game. It certainly has a set-up of one – our hero has got to fight his way throw a building room by room, floor by floor to get to the eventual “bosses”. So if you want plot or character, then this movie isn’t for you.

However, I had to admire the craft of the film, directed by Gareth Evans, whose camera moves fluidly throughout, you stages one breathtaking action sequence after another. He is certainly aided by his cast, who are martial arts experts. The hero is played by Iko Uwais could easily become the next Jackie Chan or Jet Li – he moves that quickly, that effortlessly. One of the films fight choreographers, Yayan Ruhian, also has a plum role as the insane Mad Dog, who may be little, but is as brutal as anyone who is likely to see in a movie of this sort. Evans does a great job with his action scenes – favoring longer shots rather than rapid fire editing – you are never lost in any fight sequence, as he lets it all play out in front of his camera. There are also a few moments of great tension – like when two characters hide in a crawl space, and one of the henchmen starts stabbing through the wall.
The movie does begin to wear out its welcome as it goes along – after all, there is only so much blood letting you can take before you want something else. But Evans keeps things going – and pulls out all the stops in the films last few action scenes to regain some momentum that it may have lost. So no, The Raid Redemption may not be a masterpiece – but as an example of its genre, it’s tough to beat. If you like action movies, than this is a must see.

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