Unreal Movie Review: The Raid: Redemption

Ever since Tony Jaa retired from acting to be a spirit monk in the forest or whatever insanity consumed him, there has been a distinct void in the action genre. There hasn’t quite been a mainstream-released feature like either of the Ong-Baks or The Protector in years now, and that’s why, ever since the first trailer for The Raid debuted, there was a bit of hope.

The film comes out of Indonesia, and unfortunately due to stupid trademark issues, it’s called The Raid: Redemption in the states. Most impressive is the fact that it actually, finally came to big chain theaters, and doesn’t have to be seen in an art house or pirated off of the internet.

The premise alone makes for an inevitably solid action flick. A SWAT team (err, whatever the Indonesian equivalent of a SWAT team is) is tasked with taking down a drug lord on the top floor of a fifteen story tower. They take the first few levels in stealthy silence, but soon realize they’ve fallen into a trap.

There’s almost too much yelling in this during fights. Like almost obnoxiously so.

After that, things progress the way you might expect. A stealth mission turns into a full-blown firefight, and when the clips of their assault rifles are empty, the fighting is done with machetes, knives, fists and feet instead.

There’s some semblance of a plot here, though one really isn’t required for a movie like this. Rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is tasked with finding “someone” during the raid, an enemy combatant with whom he’s had a history, though to say any more would give it away. Squad commander Jaka (Joe Taslim) thinks that his commanding officer Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) has organized this failed missions for the wrong reasons.

But really, none of this matters, as it’s the violence which is what we came to see. It’s constant, brutal and incredibly choreographed as you would hope. The best scenes involve Rama taking down a whole contingent of baddies by himself. One instance in a hallway where he fights with only a knife against a large horde will remind viewers of a similarly amazing scene in Oldboy.

Bullet proof vests should at least absorb punches pretty well right?

The only real disappointment with the fight sequences are that guns aren’t quite employed as they could be. We’ve seen hand to hand fighting in movies like this a great deal, but guns are usually in the background. Here they’re front and center as both sides usually have them, but these sequences aren’t choreographed at all the way the fist fights were. I was hoping for more Matrix lobby scene stylishness and less Saving Private Ryan outright carnage. I suppose it’s more “realistic” that way, but this movie owes nothing to realism as its pure insanity from start to finish.

Is it good? It has a more compelling story than the “where is my elephant/statue” driven Jaa’s movies, but the choreography isn’t quite as memorable. Not to say it isn’t good, but it’s just that Jaa’s sequences are a little better. His utilize a whole slew of weapons and locations, and are often shot in one continuous take. Jaa always makes great use of his environments, but here, the climactic fight takes place in quite literally an empty room.

It’s a good film for any action fan, and I hear it’s part of a trilogy which will crank the dial past where it was for this film. And that should be something to see.

3.5 out of 5 stars


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  1. 3.5 out of 5?! Really?! I gave it a 5 (http://random2502.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/the-raid-review/) without a doubt. When I went to see it in the cinema it had to be upgraded to a bigger screen because of incredible demand, and it was one of my best experiences in the cinema ever. So much audience participation, laughing, cheering, “oohs” and “ahs” and when the credits finally rolled the screening erupted into applause, something which rarely happens in a modern cinema.

    You’ve done the film a discredit and I wholeheartedly encourage everyone out there to go see this incredible film as soon as possible.

  2. This movie is without a doubt a 5 for any action fan. A very fun theatre experience. Great to see a movie like this and Cabin in the Woods come out so close to each other with little hype and both be awesome. Hopefully it’s a great omen of some of the bigger blockbusters to come this summer

  3. Having just seen it last night in Ann Arbor, I’m going to have to disagree with your review as well.

    While the Ong-bak’s are awesome (never a doubt about that), none of them ever felt as visceral or as frantic as The Raid. I agree completely with what Iain said – I, as an audience member, felt incredibly connected to Rama and hopeful that the squad would achieve their goal. I never had that kind of connection with the Ong-bak movies. For those, I was just waiting for the next awesome fight scene. The Raid brought both excellently choreographed fights for a modern-era AND made me feel invested in the film/characters. In several of the fights, it was so plainly obvious that Rama was fighting out of complete desperation, and it was stressful to see him fight like that.

    I dunno man, something in this movie just clicked for me. It was fantastic.

  4. First of all i’m just gonna say this movie should have gotten a better score, but that’s not my point. For those Tony Jaa fans you will be happy to know he is working on a sequel to the Protector that should be released within the next year or so.

  5. I can’t believe you didn’t like it that much. It had hands-down, absolutely the best action I’ve ever seen in a movie. There were only like 20 people in my theater, but we were all cheering like maniacs.

  6. You know man, you should really apply to go to advanced screenings to review films, you have a legit publication here. I seen this movie in January to review it, and I’m just doing a journalism course at College. I also think the score is a bit low, The Raid is as good as any action film since the ’80s.

  7. I have to say that in terms of a pure action movie this score should at least be a 4 or 4.5. You say guns are front and center but that’s not the case. In fact, there’s only a few early scenes dealing with gun-play. There is a reason guns leave the equation pretty early seeing as how the cops pretty much use up all their ammo trying to survive the first twenty minutes. Second, you have to look at weapons in the context of the film, meaning the only other weapons they had at their disposal were machetes, knives and night sticks considering all the people fighting lived in an Indonesian slum.
    Finally, the last fight scene was incredible and had some pretty long continuous takes if I’m not mistaken along with being a throwback to classic martial arts films by guys like jackie chan where the combatants were simply duking it out with amazing choreography.
    Oh man you didn’t even mention the slick camera work Gareth Evans uses throughout the movie to keep the viewer face first in the action or the visceral feeling his shots give you. And i am pretty sure slamming a guys throat through a broken door counts as using your environment well.

  8. Here’s another vote for “Your score’s too low.” With that out of the way, I thought you missed something with your focus on the action choreography even within that itself. This movie has some comedy mixed in somehow. I would guess most of us had to read subtitles but I felt that still came through. The way the stabbings and shootings kept on coming in addition to how awkwardly bodies kept landing you almost had to chuckle. Maybe I’m just sick but I think it’s a rare flick that can accomplish so much.

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