The Raid [Serbuan maut] (2012)
AKA The Raid: Redemption
Starring Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Satrya, Iang Darmawan
Directed by Gareth Evans
Expectations: Super high. So stoked for this movie.
Before I get into more specific feelings about The Raid, I want to say that I really enjoyed it overall. I liked Merantau a lot more, but I think The Raid is the better made film hands down. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans, hot off of the success of Merantau, are back to bring you a bone-crunching, kick-ass martial arts film. If you went into The Raid cold, you’d never guess this was the case from the opening half hour or so, as there is very little, if any, martial arts at all during this time. It’s all police squads and machine gun fire, and while automatic weapons are always pretty damn exciting and entertaining, I was there for the punchy-punch.
There’s not a whole lot of story being told in The Raid, but that’s to be expected. The basics of The Raid are this: There’s an evil fucker on the top floor of a fifteen-story building. He must be taken down, along with all the other evil fuckers that he has rented rooms to in the building, not to mention his two evil henchmen fuckers. As one of the cops says during the opening scene, “Let’s clean up this city.”
It’s seemingly the perfect, basic setup for a balls-out action picture, and that is exactly what The Raid is. It successfully manages to wrangle in some humanity later on, which helps to flesh out the second half of the film, but for the most part The Raid = ACTION. And when I say ACTION, I mean some of the most intense, brutally violent action you’ve ever seen. I lost count of the number of people who got shot point-blank in the face early in the film, but trust me there were a lot. The number of people who get horribly stabbed is also completely off the chart, as are the ones wounded by mere mortal hands. And let’s not forget the multitudes of stuntmen that got picked up by a leg and swung into a number of walls/appliances/pieces of furniture. The body count on this film has to rank somewhere fairly close to Hard Boiled.
But to focus on the body count statistic is to lose sight of the incredibly fucking brutal details. Jesus Christ, the violence in this movie left a sour taste in my mouth. In many martial arts films, there is something of a light tone that allows the viewer to experience joy at the performer’s amazing feats and in the inventive choreography. In The Raid (and especially in the first, more gun-heavy half of the film), some of the violence is so brutal that I could find none of that joy in the performance. It only made me question myself, and whether I found this entertaining or something more akin to sadism. It should be noted that even though almost all the blood splats were obviously CG, they still resonated as intensely brutal. I still hate CG blood with a passion, and it still looks fake here, but I do think most of it is well done enough for the average viewer to never really notice.
Just as this sour taste was really developing, there was a shift. The film hits its stride, and star Iko Uwais rose from the sea of riot-gear clad policemen and took the reins of the film. As the purely hand-to-hand martial arts elements surfaced, so did my joy, and by the final fight I was thoroughly impressed. That’s not to say that the violence lessened in its brutality, but due to the elimination of guns and knives from most of the second half of the picture, the sheer number of dead people flying at you slows down considerably. And without spoiling anything, the final fight is fucking awesome. In fact every scene that Yayan Ruhian is in is pure brilliance. He played the character that Iko Uwais fought in the elevator in Merantau (as well as serving as co-fight choreographer on both films) and he’s as big of a find as Uwais is. In The Raid, he’s got his best Al Leong moustache on too, which is probably unintentional, but it made me smile.
While Merantau had some pacing issues, The Raid plays out so quickly and effortlessly that before you know it the credits will be rolling. A lot of movies throw around shit like “non-stop action,” or as my buddy’s cousin used to say about Hard Target, “Nothing but action!”, but The Raid is literally that. It’s fucking intense and brutal and if you’re not prepared for the supreme cacophony of violence you’re entering into, it will smash your head against the tile wall repeatedly, just like Uwais does to a many of his opponents in the film.
Evans’ directorial style is clearly developing as well, with The Raid being an even better shot film than the well-shot Merantau. Given the limited locations he had to work with here (basically the whole film is inside one building), Evans comes up with fresh, interesting ways to shoot every scene, every time. There’s some over-reliance on shaky handheld here and there, but it’s solid where it counts and The Raid remains a very well-shot, and well-edited action film.
The Raid can be a hard movie to watch because some of its violence is so hardcore, unflinching and borderline sadistic, but it does live up to the hype set out before it. This is definitely one of the best action movies you’re likely to see in a while. As I said in the opening, I prefer Merantau simply because I prefer that style of martial arts film to something like this. Regardless though, The Raid is pretty fucking good, and could easily sell loads of newcomers on the glories of Asian action cinema, just like Rumble in the Bronx started me down the path to Hong Kong nirvana. The Raid is the goods; definitely check it out on the big screen if you dig on action.