Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fists of Flurry - "The Raid: Redemption" Review

Welsh director Gareth Evans has been fascinated for years by the art of Indonesian martial arts.  In 2009 he released his first narrative action film, Merantau, displaying this little known form so that it might get wider worldwide recognition and acclaim.  Working again with the same choreographer, Iko Uwais, Gareth Evans has created his newest martial arts film The Raid: Redemption.

The story of The Raid: Redemption focuses on Rama (Iko Uwais), a character defined by his speed in battle and a brief visualization that alerts the audience to the fact that he has a pregnant wife.  Rama and an elite tactical team are ordered to infiltrate an apartment complex teeming with hordes of criminals who heed the call of Tama (Ray Sahetapy), a murderous gang lord.  It isn't long after the team has breached the complex that Tama is alerted to their presence by several children, who are placed on lookout.  This prompts a flood of nonstop violence as villains spring out of every doorway with their guns blasting, blades swinging, and fists pumping.

The story plays out like an under-scripted video game, with each floor of the building acting like the next level for the barely developed protagonist to fight through.  Any of the film's attempts at character development end up feeling forced, as if they were obligatory.  Villains pour out of every doorway and rush around every corner only to be dispatched seconds later without any thought.  The film only gives time to its main antagonist, Tama, in a brief scene where he thoughtlessly murders several of his tenants.  However, this is so minuscule and without context that the scene reveals nothing of his motives or intentions other than he is just a "bad-guy."

The real star and reason for watching The Raid: Redemption is the explosive and lightning-quick Indonesian martial arts form known as pencak silat.  While this style of fighting might be impressive at first it quickly wears out its fun and becomes monotonous and tiresome.  The film forgets all of the things that make action sequences in movies engaging: ebb, flow, and an overall care for the fighters.  Instead, The Raid: Redemption bashes its audience over the head repeatedly until they are numb, an effect that renders the action as a visual blur and nothing more.

Compare this with the masterful 13 Assassins, a film that takes its time developing its heroes and villains for the first half of its run time, and The Raid: Redemption quickly falls apart.  13 Assassins's action is bolstered by its attention to character and detail, providing its audience with a villain that is truly worth hating.  This fuels the action, which is slow and precise, and makes it memorable while still maintaining the large scale that The Raid: Redemption hoped to portray.

That's not to say that the action in The Raid: Redemption isn't impressive because it really can be.  A particular sequence where a character utilizes a police's nightstick combined with a knife is inventive and hypnotizing.  At the same time though there are sequences that go too far to try and impress and only end up making the action inconsistent.  In these scenes characters are able to survive and continue fighting through situations that would have caused the death of characters just a few scenes earlier.

There is no question that The Raid: Redemption features some really talented actors and choreographers performing some of the fastest action ever put to the screen.  It's just that for all of its flair there is nothing to savor, no little moments to scrutinize and obsess over.  The Raid: Redemption never quite finds its ground in a way that the action of the magical and stylish Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or the visceral and grounded Haywire does.

For a full discussion of The Raid Redemption (including SPOILERS) please listen to THE FILM GRIND

2 / 4 Reels



  1. Nice comparison with 13 Assassins. Will definitely check this out.

  2. I think Evans purposely made the plot and character development very basic and simple in The Raid. He wants to focus more on action after his previous movie Merantau got criticized for taking too long on plot and characterization. So, for The Raid his target audiences were these purist action fans. In fact, just before the premiere screening of The Raid in Toronto, Evans said the audience should left their brain outside while watching The Raid.

    It must be a hell lot of surprise for Evans himself that The Raid got so much hype, some call it as the best action of decades or action masterpiece. That is clearly not what he tried to achieve. His aims were simply to introduce silat to world audience and introduce Iko Uwais as one of the next martial art superstars. Mission accomplished.