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Original Title:
The Raid

Indonesia 2011

Martial Arts, Action

Gareth Evans

Iko Uwais
Joe Taslim
Pierre Gruno
Donny Alamsyah
Yayan Ruhian
Ray Sahetapy
Iang Darmawan
Tegar Satrya
Eka 'Piranha' Rahmadia
Verdi Solaiman

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The Raid

aka The Raid: Redemption

Story: Crime boss Tama (Ray Sahetapy) rules the capital city Jakarta. Now, under orders of squad leader Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) the run-down apartment building Tama is using as a hideout is attacked. But the actual mission is supervised by Jaka (Joe Taslim) who also brings some young rookie policemen with him, among them Rama (Iko Uwais). When they arrive at the building the special task force is soon discovered by Tama's men, though, and they suddenly find themselves in a deadly trap. Almost all of the building's residents are loyal servants of Tama and are now doing everything in their power for the police not to get out of the apartment building alive. A deadly fight for survival begins for Rama and his team. But with Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and Andi (Donny Alamsyah) Tama has another ace up his sleeve. Moreover, it turns out that the mission wasn't officially signed. No one is going to come to the rescue of Jaka, Rama and the rest of the team...

Review: If you are reading phrases like "best action movie in decades" there instantly should be some skepticism building up. No, "The Raid" surely isn't that, but still a very good action film! Those who aren't carried away by the hype will get a similar wow-moment as with the Thai flick "Ong Bak". However, this time there is no Muay Thai kickboxing in the center of events but the Indonesian Pencak Silat. Two years prior director Gareth Evans already brought a good action movie with "Merentau" to the screen featuring martial arts expert Iko Uwais. This time everything looks more international and professional but - and that's the movie's actual asset - everything is still very dirty, dark, adrenaline-loaden and violent.

Those who watch "The Raid" surely will not ask for any great story. And you don't get any. The main idea behind the plot is interesting and the groundwork for an oppressive-claustrophobic atmosphere. An apartment building, in which a task force is trapped and completely isolated. The rest is simply routine. Every time when the story is pushed forward it seems rather out of place and there aren't any big surprises anyway. Maybe you are even annoyed with one or two stupid moments in the movie like Rama's "plan" to just fight your way through, but at least it's honest, because a smart and convoluted narration or anything like that isn't something we would expect after all. But what we do expect is to get a lot of action. And the movie delivers.

Besides several shootouts there is above all else a lot of martial arts. Pencak Silat is a tremendously direct and effective kind of martial art and Iko Uwais has the speed to slash through groups of enemies. Yes, "The Raid" is pretty violent and the use of daggers is obligatory. But it's just that directness and brutality that makes the adrenaline rush through the viewer's veins. After all, the fight for survival feels like an all out war. The punches, kicks and throws are hard and merciless, you even believe to feel them yourself and some unusual camera work give the scenes also a special appeal. With its martial arts action "The Raid" actually outdoes 90 percent of its competitors. To call "The Raid" a revelation in this respect would still be an exaggeration, but there are nonetheless some outright wonderful fights to be seen here.

The dirtiness isn't just to be found in the fights but also in the building and the overall atmosphere of the film. The apartment building looks as if it could fall apart any minute, the maze-like character of the many corridors and floors is made good use of and the desperateness of the task force members who are becoming more and more aware that they will never get out of this nighmare alive is also conveyed very well. Furthermore, Iko Uwais has also charisma in the scenes where he has some dialogues which gives him an advantage over many other martial artists. The rest of the cast also manages on several occasions to bestow something amusing or repulsive upon their otherwise shallow characters, also thanks to the dialogues that aren't really taking themselves too seriously.

The grey, dark color filter that lies over the pictures and the balls-to-the-wall action including some very well done fights are the strength of this film. Yet, there is no nonstop-action as oftentimes advertised and that's a good thing, too. The viewer gets some time to breathe every now and then, but the most important thing is that the action is evenly spread and in this respect there is nothing to be criticized. Director Gareth Evans, who is Welsh (!) by the way, leaves no doubt that he has grown up with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and delivers an action movie the kind of you would expect to come out of Hong Kong. The soundtrack of the international version of the movie is composed by Mike Shinoda (member of the band "Linkin Park") and underlines the adrenaline-loaden action of the film with its at times very powerful beats fittingly until the very end. Therefore, even without any hype this is a must-see for action fans!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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