The Raid (2011)
I was not a big fan of Gareth Evans 2009 movie Merantau. Although it was an interesting showcase for Iko Uwais and Pencak Silat martial arts, the story had a ponderous narrative and was thirty minutes too long. The human drama seemed at odds with the action content. However, in early 2011 I started to hear positive things about his follow up movie The Raid. When I finally got to see the international version of the film the following year, I was summarily impressed. The Raid was the most entertaining, all out, kick you in the nuts action film I’d seen since Hard Boiled at that point. Every so often, a film comes along that breathes new life in to an ageing and tired genre. The Raid was exactly such a movie and it didn’t take long for people to take note.
Seven years on (and a sequel later) I recently watched this movie for a second time. Let it suffice to say it still boasts a formidable pedigree. It reaches high gear within minutes of starting and simply does not let up for its hundred-minute duration. It is atmospheric, mean and dirty with one of the highest bodycounts to running time ratios I’ve encountered. And it remains extremely hard hitting. If your forays into the action genre have been mainly PG-13, mainstream US fodder, then you’re in for a “great big fucking surprise” as Jack Watson said in The Wild Geese. This is a fast paced and frenetic movie with a hard edge. It’s violent slick and compelling. It’s lack of Hollywood gloss makes it gritty and a refreshing change from other western genre movies.
A group of elite SWAT style specialist cops launch a dawn raid on 30 floor tenement block that doubles as armed fortress for an evil local drugs baron. However, the textbook plan goes terribly wrong, leaving the forces of law and order decimated. The fire fights with automatic weapons give way to hand to hand combat as honest cop Rama (Iko Uwais) tries to keep the remainder of his team alive and carry out their mission. The Raid boast a grimy production design which is credible and atmospheric. The cinematography by Matt Flannery captures the rundown aesthetic of Jarkarta’s slums very well. Even when the mayhem becomes somewhat balletic, the down to earth setting keeps the viewer grounded. There are shades of Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 in the narrative as well as nods to John Woo and Walter Hill. Director Gareth Evans balances tone, pacing and a feel for action sequences perfectly.
The Raid succeeds because it does not aim to high. There is a wealth of action and wall to wall mayhem. Blood flows freely, but the movie does not make the mistake of copying standard Hollywood output. We don’t have a hero who is bullet proof, blessed with limitless ammunition and can take down a plane with a single shot. We have a flawed hero, who bleeds. Of course, we have to suspend our sense of disbelief. But we do not have to seal it in a lead container and drop it into the ocean to be recovered at a later date. If you like old school action movies, then see The Raid. You won’t regret it. If only Hollywood would take note. Less is more in this case. Also using a talented director who knows what he’s doing, helps. Unfortunately, the US studios seem oblivious to what the fans want and still blithely continue churning out there “targeted products”.
Here is some further trivia on The Raid. The title of the movie was altered from The Raid to The Raid: Redemption in the United States because the production company SPC could not secure the rights to the title; this also allowed Gareth Evans to plan out future titles in the series. The US version also sports a different soundtrack. While the original film was still in production, in May 2011, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions acquired the distribution rights of the film for the U.S. and asked Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Joseph Trapanese to create a new score for U.S. release. The original score from the Indonesian version was composed by Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal, who worked with Evan's on his previous film, Merantau. This version can be found on the international DVD and Blu-ray release of the movie.