Review :: Big Screen – The Raid

March 26th 2012


‘The Raid’ is not only the best Indonesian martial arts film directed by a Welshman named Gareth ever made, it’s also one of the best martial arts films I have ever seen, and if it’s not the best action movie of the year then we are in for a very good year. Watching it I felt the same exhilaration I felt when I first saw movies like ‘Oldboy’ and ‘Hardboiled’; when you know you are watching an action classic for the first time.

Director Gareth Evans keeps his plot sleek and simple. A SWAT team raids a 15 story apartment building in Jakarta that serves as the headquarters for a vicious mob boss, as well as housing for ordinary citizens and mob goons, all indebted to the boss. Things quickly turn violent as they attempt to get to the 15th floor, where the boss is hiding. A finite supply of ammo and a healthy supply of bodies mean the action transitions from epic gun battles to brutal knife fights and punishing fisticuffs using the Indonesian martial art Silat. Along the way the plot gathers complexity, and the characters acquire surprising depth.

Star Iko Uwais is developing a partnership with Evans, having now starred in both films he has made thus far. His boyish looks make the astonishing ass-kicking he dishes out here even more unexpected as Evans keeps elevating the action and raising the stakes. Uwais is a star. He’ll probably be speaking poor English in a terrible family action comedy, or playing the mute villain in some crappy sequel real soon. He is that good. Evans has cast for martial arts skill first, and acting second, though it didn’t strike me as a problem; judging acting can be more difficult when subtitles are involved.

After watching (and reviewing) ‘The Hunger Games’ recently, I got so frustrated that the director couldn’t manage to operate his camera in a way that allowed me to figure out who was fighting, let alone winning. Here, with a budget roughly equivalent to the amount spent trimming Wes Bently’s beard in that movie, Evans stages massive elaborate sequences that he films in beautiful clarity without sacrificing the visceral thrill that you can get shooting hand held. The skill on display in the filming and cutting of this thing puts every mainstream action movie of last year in the shade.

You will smell the DNA of countless films and video games in this, but the film also stands on its own. It’s hyper violent, but if you can stomach that, don’t miss The Raid. If violence makes you queasy, pop a couple Maxilon and strap yourself in for a breathtaking bit of cinema.


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