April 21, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

I keep getting these headaches...

Grade: B +
Director: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Ray Sahtapy and Yayan Ruhian
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

If there was ever a Dogme-style revolution in action filmmaking, it could start with the unadulterated adrenaline rush The Raid: Redemption. With his pregnant wife at home, Rama (Ido Uwais) joins an elite SWAT team assigned the daunting mission of raiding a treacherous, virtually impenetrable high-rise tenement deep in Jakarta’s slums. The building serves as sanctuary for a gaggle of dangerous thugs, drug dealers, murderers and a smattering of trapped, law-aiding tenants. Their benefactor and the ultimate police target is a sociopathic kingpin named Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who is shielded by floors of minions and his two confidants, the intellectual Andi (Doni Alamsyah) and the appropriately named Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian).

However, the only task dicier than breaking into this tower of treachery is figuring out how to escape alive once the cops are quickly outed by lookouts. The unit find itself pitted against virtually the entire occupancy of this hellish hostel, who are promised permanent residency by Tama if they pick off the police infiltrators.

This Indonesian import from Welsh-born director Gareth Evans is raw and frenzied, heavy on blood, ballistics and balls-out martial arts, particularly from costars and genre vets Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim and Ruhian. The action starts flying at the audience mere minutes in and doesn’t let up until the final credits. Moreover, the fight scenes are as exquisite as ballet in their choreography, and the action is visceral sans an over-reliance on digital effects (used mostly for replicate explosions and CGI-enhanced bloodletting). Evans brings a precision to the photography and sound editing, a far cry from the schlocky quality typically associated with chopsocky cinema.

The Raid: Redemption is not for the squeamish or anyone looking for narrative depth. Instead, it’s a pleasingly retro template for all those modern Hollywood action films that pale by comparison.

Neil Morris

No comments: