The Raid: Redemption is a damn good action flick. The sequel is coming out on Blu-Ray this month, so I figured I’d take a look at the first film to see what the big deal is, and I was not disappointed. It’s not trying to be groundbreaking or reinvent the martial arts action genre by any means, but it is really damn good at being what it’s trying to be, which is a series of absolutely brutal martial arts brawls that are beautifully choreographed and devastatingly violent. This film is a lot of fun, and if you like intense, R-rated action, this is a pretty good film for you.
The premise here is that a raid squad is set to enter a high rise in Jakarta in order to take down an infamous crime boss, who has rented out the rooms of the high rise to various thugs and criminals looking to lay low, forming what amounts to a makeshift army. Through a series of complications, the raid squad ends up outmanned, outgunned, and with zero hope of reinforcements, so the focus quickly shifts from being about heroically taking out the bad guys to just getting out of the building with their lives. It’s a pretty intriguing idea that, while having some fairly genre-typical twists, allows for one element to be played up very well: suspense. At times, the film borrows heavily from the atmosphere of classic slasher flicks, emphasizing the helplessness of the once-powerful heroic cops in the face of better armed adversaries lurking around every corner. It adds a lot to the tone of what could otherwise just be fast action all the way through, and it’s an appreciated aesthetic choice.
The action itself is very well captured, and it’s really different than the more majestic take on martial arts that one typically sees from Asian action flicks. The brawls focus on full body combat rather than focused strikes, so there’s a lot of knife and gun-play intermixed with tackles, throws, and ramming, though that isn’t to say there isn’t a fair share of punching and kicking too. A shaky, handheld camera is used for many of the fight scenes, and while I would say that occasionally it is hard to tell what’s happening, most of the time the swooping camera is used to showcase the most brutal aspects of the fights, lingering on necks getting sliced and kicks connecting to sternums. It focuses in on what its audience came to see, and it really revels in showing its spectacle in a way that’s satisfying and coherent.
And, yeah, there isn’t too much more to say on the matter. I liked this movie. It’s a lot of fun, fast, satisfying action, interspersed with some tense horror-style suspense. My one stipulation is that you should watch it in the original Indonesian with subtitles, because the English dubbing crew mostly sounds bored with their own flat deliveries. That one nitpick aside, though, if you want to see 100 minutes of action without a ton of plot getting in the way, The Raid: Redemption is as about as good an offering you can expect. Check it out.
Have a favorite mindless action flick? Tell me about it in the comments below.