FILM: THE RAID (DON’T PANIC MAY 2012)
Brutally violent Indonesian-language action thriller The Raid is set to be one of the best action films of 2012. Don’t watch after eating…
I have to admit: I’m not usually one for cop films. Action films, thrillers, crime dramas, even Guy Ritchie shoot ‘em ups – they’re all fine, great even, but there’s just something about cop movies that bores the socks off me. Maybe it’s the generic formulas, maybe it’s the predictably depressing lack of imagination regarding character types (oh hi, maverick-cop-who-don’t-play-by-no-rules, let’s pair you with a straight-laced plays-by-all-the-rules new cop), who knows, but it was with no small amount of trepidation that I stepped into the recent press screening for Gareth Evans’ The Raid, However, I was soon pleasantly surprised. Actually, forget ‘pleasantly’; I was giddy, thrilled and downright ecstatic.
The action takes place in Jakarta, Indonesia, and follows a SWAT team attempting to take down notorious crime lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy) and his accompanying gang of vicious psychos. So far, so standard. Thing is, they’ve got to get through an entire tower block full of said psychos (fully equipped with more guns and big, rusty machetes then you can shake a stick at, as well as a boss-type figure on each level) before they can get to the big baddie on the top floor. Blundering in with apparently no real idea what it is that they’re getting themselves into, the team is quickly outnumbered by a whole building’s worth of pissed-off, trigger-happy tenants, and it all starts to look pretty bleak; it’s down to protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais), a fresh-faced rookie cop with some ferocious martial arts moves – and a propensity for breaking arms at horrible angles – to save the day.
Oh, and it’s violent. Hyperviolent. Skull shattering, bone smashing, blood painting the floor, walls and ceiling violent. The fluid, flawlessly coordinated displays of Indonesian martial art pencak silat (which every character has at least a black belt in, obviously) will leave you breathless, and your ears will be ringing with the sound of gunfire for hours after you leave the cinema. If, like me, you have a sadistic streak compelling you to delight (maybe a bit too much) in on-screen carnage, you’ll spend most of the film’s 101-minute runtime alternately gripping the arms of your seat, swearing in shock and laughing with bloodthirsty glee as another perfectly executed scene of mass carnage explodes across the screen.
Of course, an action flick of this intensity would be nothing without a bass-heavy BPM-fuelled soundtrack to keep the audience’s blood pressure up, and The Raid is no exception. Scored by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park fame (no worries, you won’t hear Chester Bennington’s angsty caterwauling at any point), the combination of polished electronic production and ear-shredding guitars is the perfect backdrop to all the smashy-smashy kill-kill action.
Interestingly, despite its Indonesian script and setting, it is Welsh director Gareth Evans who is the creative brains behind the film. Having encountered difficulties breaking into the UK film industry, Evans moved to Indonesia four years ago with the aim to make Indo-speaking (Bahasa) films – and it was making his other feature-length action, the 2009 Merantau, that he also discovered The Raid’s lead actor, Iko Uwais.
Admittedly, this is not a film that’s big on plot. Aside from a brief scene with his pregnant wife at the beginning, we are given no real insight into protagonist Rama’s back-story, much less any of the others. But you know what? That’s fine. Really. With so many Western action films slowed down by insipid ‘emotional’ scenes, designed to give its characters some sense of a 3D life (I’m looking at you, whiny True Lies kids) but instead leaving you impatiently waiting for the next car-flying-over-a-bus-exploding-into-a-helicopter scene, it’s refreshing to see Evans leaving such irrelevant sentimentality at the door and focusing on what this film does best – fighting, shooting and killing.
With such slick, watchable action, and such a breakneck pace to keep up with, it’s easy to see why The Raid has received as much critical acclaim as it has, having made it into the Official Selection at Sundance and SXSW and scooping the People’s Choice award in Toronto’s ‘Midnight Madness’ category. Guns, gore and kick-ass martial arts (not to mention one ingenious use of a fridge) – what more do you need?
Written by Charlotte McManus
Posted on 25/05/2012, in Film and tagged action, bahasa, gareth evans, gareth huw evans, Iko Uwais, indonesia, jakarta, martial arts, mike shinoda, pencak silat, Ray Sahetapy, sundance, sxsw, the raid, the raid: redemption, toronto film festival, violent. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.