You’ve probably heard Nerdlocker talk about The Raid: Redemption before. From initial thoughts on the trailer, to our Austin Connection review of the film after it was shown at SXSW, we’ve been huge fans of this movie. I recently had the opportunity to catch this amazing work at a local press screening, and I feel it deserves even more praise. It’s been a long time since an action movie has been this perfectly put together. Generally action films will be peppered with corny jokes, toned down for a PG-13 rating, or have stunts so logically flawed and outlandish that you end up laughing at them instead of being amazed. The Raid: Redemption does none of this and is one of the best action movies I have ever seen.
The Raid: Redemption is the story of rookie officer Rama (Iko Uwais), who is pulled in with a small SWAT team to take control of a building run by one of Jakarta’s most ruthless and murderous crime lords, Tama Riyandi (Ray Sahetapy). Tama’s gang of killers and psychopaths try to protect him and the building. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, once Tama learns that the SWAT team has infiltrated his operations, he promises lifetime accommodations and protection to any resident who takes out one of the infiltrators. This creates chaos and machete-wielding danger behind every door and around every corner. And to top even that, the higher the team climbs, the more they learn that the reason they are trying to take Tama down and the reason they are putting their lives in danger may not be as legitimate and righteous as they initially believed.
This Indonesian martial arts film was a project that Gareth Evans (director) and Iko Uwais (star) put together in a very short amount of time after a different project, Berandal, fell through. The duo first collaborated on the 2009 film Merantau. One thing all three of these projects do is try to highlight traditional Indonesian martial arts, called Pencak Silat. This form of fighting focuses on fluidity and precision of movement and tries to incorporate surprise in order to gain the upper hand. These principles are strongly evident in the fight choreography of The Raid as it is some of the most natural and stunning choreography I have ever seen, designed by Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian. For the record I could watch these two fight each other for hours.
My favorite fight scene in this movie is between Rama (the hero), Mad Dog (Tama’s brutal right-hand man, played by Yayan Ruhian), and a third person who I will not reveal so as to avoid a major spoiler. All you need to know is that this third person fights with Rama in this scene. By the time of this fight, we have heard Mad Dog talked up and have seen him fight and kill one man already; we know he’s a badass. Many times in action movies the hero will not be evenly matched against the villain; the villain is always weaker and the fight is always very one-sided. However in this scene, as well as the whole movie, Mad Dog is clearly the best fighter around. He is so crazy good that he takes on two men at the same time, and it isn’t even enough to fully overcome him. It is only by sheer happenstance that he is bested.
Another way that this movie shines where so many others fail is in the set-up of the story. Rama’s motivation for living (a pregnant wife) and surviving the raid is very quickly and effectively defined within two minutes. The background of Tama and his henchmen and the peril the SWAT team will face on their mission is all conveyed within five minutes. I can not stress enough how amazingly tense this entire movie is. From the opening credits to the end, everything from the editing, the camera work, the set design, the choreography, the soundtrack, the acting, the dialog, everything works together to form a fist of excitement that reaches through the screen, grabs you by the throat, and doesn’t let you breath until the final credits are rolling.
The simplicity of the plot serves the movie well. There are some unexpected twists and reveals, but nothing so crazy as to take away from the gritty reality and natural violence of the action. It only serves to invest you more in the story and the plight of the main characters. The Raid: Redemption leaves you wanting more only in that it was so good and perfect you just need there to be more. Luckily, it seems that this need will be fulfilled as Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, who purchased the distribution rights for The Raid in the US (and changed it’s name to The Raid: Redemption to avoid some trademark issues), has also purchased rights to an upcoming sequel. Evans, who has already expressed a desire to turn this into a trilogy, will revisit his original project that fell through, Berandal, and turn it into a sequel, tentatively titled The Raid: Retaliation in the US.
I can’t wait to watch this movie multiple times, let alone see what they do with a trilogy. It should come as no surprise that I give this movie 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.