The Raid: Redemption (2012)
For everyone who’s ever thought “Not enough action” on the way out.
The Raid: Redemption is about an Indonesian SWAT team that’s tasked with taking out a drug lord by breaking into his highly-fortified holdout. Not ones to mosey, they roll up to the building and make their way in hoping to make this an in-and-out procedure. But when their cover gets blown by some jerk kid with a loud mouth, it doesn’t take long before the bullets start flying. So with their backs against the wall and their numbers dwindling fast, a lone rookie with a kid on the way ends up being the best chance they’ve got of finishing the job and getting out alive.
Usually these synopses are a smidge longer than four sentences, and I think this is the first review in forever that’s clocked in just over 1000 words, but I guess the beauty of this bad boy is that it does most of the talking. See, all action movies have a story (I swear I’m not making that up), and regardless of whether or not that story is actually good, more often than not, the story tends to get in the way of the very thing we all came for in the first place: the action. Well apparently writer/director Gareth Evans was dead tired of that horseshit. Enter The Raid: Redemption: his solution to this constant problem…plus a lot of the other problems that are all too common in action movies today. It’s not quite non-stop ass-kicker that the hype wants me to believe, but when things start raining, good lord, do they pour.
I guess the one thing that’s truly great about The Raid is that those involved have obviously been taking notes over the years. Now, just like any other genre, the double-edged sword of action movies is that every once in a while a gamechanger will come our way, only to make way for a countless number of coattail riders trying to capitalize of its success by doing the same thing only worse. For example: thanks to The Matrix, we’ve been plagued by bullet time. Thanks to Crouching Tiger, we’ve been plagued by wires. Thanks to The Bourne Ultimatum, we’ve been plagued by cameras that move so freaking fast it’s impossible to tell what we’re supposed to be watching. Folks, the epidemic has festered to where you need a goddamn hazmat suit to sit through these movies.
But I guess the upside of having to wade through so many imitators is that they do make the genuine articles stand out. It’s like comparing new school John Woo to old school John Woo. Spoiler alert: old school wins every time.
Anyway, the reason this little ditty is one of those genuine articles is because it doesn’t do any of that crap that was already done well and didn’t bear repeating. Instead, The Raid gets back to basics. This here is a no-frills thrill ride. Little to no special effects (not counting all the bloodletting), only a handful of shootouts, and a downright gaggle of hand-to-hand fight scenes that seem to go on for ages. And what’s interesting about it is that it a lot of these action scenes play out pretty similarly. Good guy gets outnumbered, good guy has to fight his way out using whatever he has at his disposal, and if the good guy wins (which isn’t a guarantee), he moves onto Level 2.
For all intents and purposes, this should get old fast. The reason it never does, not even in the slightest, is due almost entirely to the fight choreography. Apparently it’s all based around an Indonesian martial art called pencak silat, and despite how unintimidating the name is, the shit is no joke and it is super violent to boot. I mean, it’s weird to describe such an epic display of ultraviolence as “awesome,” but when it’s playing out, it’s hard to describe it as anything but. It’s just one insanely inventive action sequence after another that continually amazes without going over the top, and considering some of the flat-out bananas stuff that goes down here, I’d say that’s quite the accomplishment. I don’t know where star/co-choreographer Iko Uwais came from, but the dude is an absolute maniac and Gareth Evans sure knows how to film him.
Love that he always keeps the camera planted square on the action, love the energy in his cinematography that perfectly complements the mayhem he’s capturing. Doesn’t have quite the same knack for writing dialogue, but by the same token, that’s somewhat beside the point. The premise, the story, the characters, and the acting are all just vehicles for the action, and when the action’s this good, the rest can afford to be decent. However, bonus points are in order for the solid score from Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park fame. Probably the best thing that’s been even remotely associated with that band in years.
But there are some discrepancies. The standard-issue SWAT outfits look more trendy than they do practical, the security cameras throughout the building only seem to come in handy when necessary, and it’s a tad hard to believe that a crack house full of crack heads and crack dealers could go toe-to-toe with a team of clean and sober trained professionals that are armed to the effing teeth. Not that it takes away from the experience, it just never hurts to side in the favor of realism. Although I could totally be wrong about that last complaint, ’cause I am totally unaware of what gym class is like in the Indonesian school systems. Something tells me it’s nuts.
After somehow missing it in theaters, I’ve been itching to see The Raid: Redemption for months now. And needless to say, it did not disappoint. I was expecting a rush, and a rush is what I got, but I wasn’t expecting much of a plot, and the plot was actually just right. Had its fair share of unforeseen twists and a body count that rose in ways most movies would opt to avoid. Sure, the writing pales in comparison to everything that works like gangbusters on a purely surface level, but we’re still getting more than we’re used to. At the very least, it’s fun as hell, and that’s exactly what we should come away with. Still wish I’d seen it in a packed theater though. Certainly worked wonders for Kill Bill.
Beats me why they had to add “Redemption” to the title though.