Red meat for action gourmets
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Mar. 23, 2012
What do you get when you send a heavily armed SWAT team into the fortresslike compound of a sadistic drug lord? In the Indonesian action-adventure film "The Raid: Redemption," it's not what you expect.
Well, okay. There is a bloodbath, yes.
But after the initial, de rigueur barrage of back-and-forth gunplay that opens the confrontation between the cops and the thugs, you end up with a bunch of adrenaline-infused, bone-crunching hand-to-hand combat. Based on the hyper-kinetic style of Indonesian martial arts known as silat, it was introduced to the Western moviegoing world in the 2009 cult film "Merantau."
It's not for everybody. But it is undeniably cinematic and even kind of thrilling - assuming you can stomach the wall of nauseating sound effects generated by repeated blows of feet and fists on flesh.
Forget the stuntmen. The hardest-working guy on this film had to be the foley artist, the technician responsible for figuring out what it sounds like to have both knees and elbows snapped, in rapid succession. I'm guessing he spent the day with his tape recorder at a chicken processing plant.
"The Raid" reunites Welsh director Gareth Huw Evans with his "Merantau" star Iko Uwais, who plays Rama, a cop whose elite commando unit is brutally attacked and then cornered after its members storm the tenement-based drug lab of Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy). In short order, the good guys' numbers are reduced from 20 to about five. After their weapons are knocked out of their hands, those who are still standing have to punch, kick and claw their way out of the building.
In addition to gun deaths, the film also features mayhem by hammer, garrote, machete, ax, exploding propane tank, baton, knife, broken fluorescent tube and splintered door (don't ask, it's gross).
But that's just the garnish on this dish. The bloody red meat at the center of the cinematic meal is the weaponless martial-arts action, of which there is plenty. "I've never liked using these," says bad-guy Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), after laying down his gun but before breaking the neck of one of the cops with his bare hands. "Takes away the rush."
He's right about that.
You don't watch "The Raid" so much as ingest it. It's a visceral, almost chemical high. One of the most nerve-racking scenes features Rama hiding behind a fake wall with a wounded colleague, as a bad guy repeatedly thrusts his machete into it, barely missing Rama. Later, our hero goes leaping out a window with that same bad guy, before the two of them land on a fire escape, several floors down, with a sickening thud.
Oh, there's also a subplot around the theme of a moral confrontation between Rama and someone unexpected that he discovers is working for Tama. Again, it's a distraction from the main course.
You don't go to "The Raid" for the side dishes, but for the steak. For fans of martial-arts action, it's a sizzling and stylishly served-up order of butt-kicking.
Contains prolific obscenity and violence. In Indonesian with English subtitles.