The Raid: Redemption movie review

Every once in a while a truly great film may slip under the radar for casual movie-goers. “The Raid” may be one of these films. A spectacular limited release action tour-de-force, this movie is one that may soon find a cult following in the States. While this martial arts title does not emphasize character development or detailed plots, its intense, white knuckle brawling, well choreographed firefights, and screen scorching pace will keep audiences glued to their seats and their jaws planted firmly on the floor.

The adrenaline-fueled Indonesian film’s story unfolds through the eyes of Rama (Iko Uwais/ Merantu), a rookie special operative of an elite SWAT team tasked with bringing one of Indonesia’s most infamous crime lords to justice. The wicked gangster Tama (Ray Sahetapy) resides on the top floor of a 30-floor apartment building, protected by his two formidable bodyguards: Silat martial arts expert Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and the enigmatic Andi (Don Alamsyah). Rama’s team must also contend with a fearsome horde of machete wielding thugs and apartment tenants who, through bribery, are loyal to the despicable Tama.

At first, the Indonesian SWAT team is successful at infiltrating the apartment complex, but quickly find themselves vastly outnumbered when a spotter alerts the apartment building’s residents of the approaching 20-man squad. What follows is an all out battle for the team’s survival as they fight from floor to floor. After the film’s initial 20 minutes of character set-up, the film seldom deviates from its bone-splintering fist fights, stylized gunplay, pulse pounding dubstep music and bloody wall-to-wall action formula. “The Raid” takes a page out of “Die-Hard” and cranks the well-choreographed and varied fight scenes to the highest volume.

Iko Uwais’s Rama stands out as his squad’s toughest fighter and is the most developed character in the film. The rookie operative desperately fights to make it back home to his pregnant wife, and has an ulterior motive for joining in this suicide mission. This secret proves to be a game changer for the squad in the later part of the film. The martial arts choreography that this young actor exhibits may propel Iko Uwais into the ranks of other successful celluloid fighters like Jet Li and Tony Jaa.

The SWAT team’s Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) proves himself to be an honorable leader throughout the film and also gets to turn his fair share of goons inside out. Jaka frequently questions his superior officer’s orders and ultimately uncovers a criminal conspiracy that threatens to destroy his team from within.

The ruthless gang enforcer, Mad Dog, is an incredible fighter, and his Silat martial arts style adds a degree of brutal complexity and stylized grace to the film. Mad Dog’s fighting scenes worth the price of admission in itself. Tama is a really nasty villain, and the actor portrays him as a paranoid, sinister and terrifying presence throughout the film.

Most of the film’s villains and heroes are archetypical protagonists and antagonists with the exception of a morally neutral individual. Fights tend to play out in mass groups with the heroes typically fighting desperately with whatever they have close at hand. Chairs, tables and even a refrigerator are used to pump some serious pain on the Swat team’s relentless opponents. Just when a viewer thinks a fight scene cannot top the last one, the film throws a more incredible action sequence at viewers.

This is a cautionary warning to audience members with weak constitutions. This film is incredibly violent and features a massive body count that falls just short of three digits. Viewers who want a multi-faceted character study with witty dialogue should look elsewhere. However, viewers who want an uncompromisingly refined action flick that constantly fires on all cylinders will find a thrilling experience with “The Raid.” This film can currently be seen as a limited release at select theaters.