This review initially appeared as part of our Toronto International Film Festival coverage and is based on the original version of The Raid that was shown during the TIFF Midnight Madness program. Though there are several changes to the film for its U.S. release (musical score, the odd appendage to its title and some “tweaking”), the film remains a full-on fight-filled action flick, so we’re re-publishing the previous review with a few minor alterations (removing TIFF-specific references).
Drawn in by the people and city of Jakarta, director Gareth Evans made a decision several years ago to continue filmmaking in Indonesia. This major career turning point happened after doing a short film there and being fascinated with the style of martial arts (called Pencak Silat) he saw which he felt would work well in feature length action films. And boy was he right – without a doubt The Raid (his second feature length action film which World Premiered at TIFF’s Midnight Madness last September) contains some of the most brutal, teeth-gritting and sustained fight scenes I’ve ever seen.
The story is somewhat nominal. A SWAT team attack an apartment complex that houses a dangerous drug lord and his cronies. As they move up floor by floor, they wipe out gang members and slowly secure the building. Until they are discovered and the gang fights back. That’s pretty much all there is to it. The set up is handled within 5-10 minutes and the shooting, stabbing and foot-to-face combat begins. Of course, there’s a few of the cops with specific characteristics (scared rookie, hardened veteran, soon-to-be first time father, etc.), but it really doesn’t matter. Even though the drug kingpin manages to get off a few good lines and crazy-eyed stares, this is not the kind of movie that has fans scrambling for early versions of the script on the Internet or that pulls you through a character arc. It’s all about the visceral thrill of watching people beat the living crap out of each other in very unique as well as old-fashioned ways. And it delivers what it set out to do.
And good god do they ever…Person after person gets dispatched in highly violent and bloody fashion – at first it’s machine guns, then other assorted firearms follow and it proceeds to swords, knives, clubs and your basic tried and true limbs. Oh, and fluorescent lightbulbs.
There are 4 or 5 incredibly long fight sequences – some between just 2 or 3 guys, but others between some of the Swat team and hallways full of baddies. The pace is furious so you never have that feeling that each individual evil dude is waiting his turn to fight our hero. Each attack move happens with such speed and forcefulness that you never doubt that everyone is trying their best to eliminate the other side. The good guys take their lumps too – these aren’t supermen, so you really do feel nervous for them in each and every fight. And do you ever feel those fights. The foley editing is extraordinary with each punch, baton whack and body thrown against a wall reverberating throughout your own body. The audience I saw it with was completely pulled into each and every fight with choruses of “oh!” coming frequently after particularly nasty comeuppences – for example, the one guy that gets pulled up in the air by his legs and then gets his neck slammed down on the broken shards of a door jutting up from the floor. The lead in all this chaos is played by Iko Uwais – a phenomenal talent who comes across almost as likable as he does ferocious.
It’s bloody, bloody violent, and bloody good fun.