PLOT: As a rookie member of an elite special-forces team, Rama (Iko Uwais) is instructed to hang back during a covert mission involving the extraction of a brutal crime lord from a rundown fifteen-story apartment block. But when a spotter blows their cover, boss Tama (Ray Sahetaphy) offers lifelong sanctuary to every killer, gangster, and thief in the building in exchange for their heads. Now Rama must stand in for the team's fallen leader (Joe Taslim) and use every iota of his fighting strength - winding through every floor and every room to complete the mission and escape with his life.
REVIEW: THE RAID (I’m going to casually ignore the REDEMPTION subtitle because, well, I just don't like it) is one of the most intense action movies I’ve ever experienced. This flick makes every other action movie of the last ten years look shallow and pedantic by comparison. What Gareth Evans has done here is return to the old-school method of action filmmaking. He’s thrown audiences into the Wayback Machine and flashed them back to the era when all you needed was a cool hero and wall-to-wall badass non-CG fight sequences to make a movie work.
This flick has no fat, no silly subplots, no extraneous characters or useless love interests. We’re presented with a very simple plot involving a elite police team being sent in to arrest a vile drug lord and that’s pretty much it. There is a minute long scene at the beginning that establishes Rama (Iko Uwais) has a pregnant wife and father but she’s never kidnapped and the he isn’t murdered in front of our hero to make the journey more personal (a lesser action pic would’ve probably went with one or both of those routes). These scenes are simply there to give audiences a little bit of calm before the storm. Oh yes, there is a storm coming. His name is Rama. And he is a motherf**king hurricane of pain.
Once the action kicks in THE RAID, it never stops. Evans’s camera floats through the symphony of violence seamlessly, allowing each punch and kick to be felt (and cheered on) by the audience. Mike Shinoda (lead singer of Linkin Park) and Joseph Trapanese’s score (newly added to the US cut of the film) is appropriately intense and magnifies the carnage to unholy levels. The fight choreography is lightning fast and coherent, eschewing the standard “shaky cam“ formula perfected by the BOURNE flicks. The first few set pieces are mostly devoted to shoot-outs (flick feels a bit like a more action-y reverse version of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13) but once the bullets run out, fists enter the equation. Then knives, then machetes, then fluorescent light bulbs and …you get the picture. What we have here is a solid formula of escalating danger that keeps the audience tense and on the edge of their seats. And, outside of some CG blood, all of the asskickery on hand looks it was done practically. I might be wrong but it sure looked like those were the real actors (and some stunt men) beating the living hell out of each other. I appreciated that.
If there is a single gripe to be had about THE RAID it would be that the plot is a little too light. I didn’t so much mind he fact Evans when simple and focused on the non-stop action but some might. You might. I don’t know. Just figured that you tell you that if you are going to this flick for anything more than what I have described then you might walk out very disappointed. Go for the action, not the story.
Straight up, THE RAID is one of the best “pure” action movies I’ve ever seen. One viewing and this has already landed on my personal TOP FIVE ACTION FLICKS OF ALL-TIME list right alongside THE KILLER, DIE HARD, ENTER THE DRAGON and THE ROAD WARRIOR. It’s that good.