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The Raid

Truly awesome action from Indonesia

Movie Specs

Starring Iko UwaisYayan RuhianDonny Alamsyah Movie Poster
Directed By Gareth Evans Certificate 18
Running Time 101 mins
UK Release Date May 18, 2012
Genre Action, Martial Arts
Our Rating
User Rating

In the same way that you can judge how funny a comedy film is by the amount of times you laugh out loud, you can tell how brutal a martial arts action film is by the number of times you wince, suck in your teeth or let out an involuntary yelp as you watch the carnage unfold.

The Raid is a very brutal film indeed, and one that has been hyped up to the point where going into it you almost expect to be disappointed. But this is one case where the hype is justified; it's one of the slickest, most effective and exhilarating action films in recent memory; one that puts all the latest Hollywood efforts to shame and surely announces the arrival of two future stars of the genre in director Gareth Evans and leading man Iko Uwais.

Set in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, The Raid wastes no time in setting up its streamlined plot. We're introduced to Uwais' rookie cop Rama as he begins his day by training, praying and bidding a fond farewell to his pregnant wife and elderly father before heading off to work. He doesn't seem to realise it yet but this is going to be quite a hectic day at the office. Turns out Rama is be part of a squad of 20 officers sent into a 30-storey apartment building to bring to justice Tama (Ray Sahetapy), a ruthless drug lord with a penchant for murdering people with a hammer and a psychotic right hand man named Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) who prefers to use his bare hands.

Tama rules over the building from the penthouse suite like a king, inviting all the worst criminal scum of Jakarta to live there rent-free in exchange for acting as security. When Rama and his colleagues arrive they soon find themselves sealed inside as Tama announces their arrival over the intercom and asks his tenants to deal with them, politely insisting that they "enjoy themselves” while they're at it. As plots go it's pretty sparse but it gives us everything we need to get to know the main players and set up an hour and 40 minutes of mayhem that truly has to be seen to be believed.

Director Gareth Evans is an expat Welshman with only one previous feature credit in the little seen, low-budget Merenta,u which also starred Uwais. Evans' relative inexperience is staggering considering the confidence and efficiency with which he mounts the action set pieces here. The bloodshed begins with several explosive gunfights but once the bullets run out and things get desperate, most of the action in The Raid involves cops and criminals going to toe-to-toe using Silat, an Indonesian martial art that isn't often seen in movies and which seems more brutal than kung fu.

While kung fu movies often feature exaggerated, almost balletic fight scenes, the scraps here are fierce, frantic and always feel like desperate men fighting for their lives, albeit desperate men with almost superhuman levels of skill and athleticism. Evans also doesn't rely on the old Hollywood action editing trick of having each fight cut into dozens of quick shots so that you can't tell when it's the star or the stunt double on screen, or to make the fighters appear more skilled then they actually are. He uses long, action-packed shots so you're left with no doubt that these actors are actually capable of what you're seeing. And it's not just the action where Evans' proves his metal; he knows how to ratchet up the tension as well, especially in one excruciatingly tense scene where Rama and a wounded colleague try to hide from a machete-wielding gang.

Probably the best move Evans made with The Raid was in casting Iko Uwais as his leading man. Although a former Silat champion, Uwais was apparently working as a delivery driver before he was discovered by Evans and had never acted before. Although The Raid doesn't exactly require any great acting skills from him, he's almost as good in the dramatic scenes as he is in the action ones and is a naturally likeable screen presence that it's hard not to root for. This is mostly due to the fact that he looks about 20-years-old, is taking on enemies twice his size and is playing quite a traditional, nobly heroic character rather than the cynical, wisecracking sorts you get in Hollywood action movies.

It's a safe bet that both Evans and Uwais will be heroes to action-movie fans for years to come and all things considered it's something of an understatement to call The Raid the best action film of the year; it's probably more accurate to say it's one of the best examples of the genre ever made.

Overall Verdict: The Raid sets out to be a heart-quickening, nail-biting, blackly funny piece of entertainment and is wildly successful.

Reviewer: Adam Pidgeon


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