Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Raid: Redemption

Action movies are a dime a dozen depending on which bargain bin of whatever high street supermarket you happen to saunter into containing whatever 80s actor most likely waiting for his call-up to the next Expendables film. However it's very much been the case, in this blogger's opinion, that truly great action movies have been something of a rarity in recent years. Even the best examples I can pluck from my questionable memory tend to either be superhero films - most recently The Avengers - or really stylish pieces of indie thrillers - most notably Drive and Headhunters. Though the 'action' element is used so sparingly, I wouldn't really class any of them as action films per say in the way you would films like 70s/80s era John Carpenter films, the first Die Hard or even the fabulous Borne films.

Sometimes you just want ballsy no nonsense, intense action with jaw dropping  choreographed fight scenes and an absurdly high body count. Step up The Raid: Redemption, from Welsh director Gareth Evans and the producers of Kung Fu Hustle and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to offer all this and more...

On the surface the story is as relatively straight forward as the tagline on the poster suggests; 20 elite cops storming 30 floors of an apartment building ran by a sinister crime lord and populated by some of the sickest thugs around. As you might expect it all goes horribly wrong as the cops fight for their lives in an unrelenting hell. However as the story slowly develops, you learn all is not quite as it seems and bigger forces are at work behind the scenes, which sets up the film's planned trilogy perfectly.

The film was scattered with fabulous turns from a totally unknown cast for me. Much praise must go to Iko Uwais for his compelling lead, but even more so for his utterly fantastic, no holds barred, martial arts action which gives the audience some of the best fight scenes I've seen in a film in so long. Really, no film I saw last year put as much thought into their characters on screen deaths like The Raid did. Some of it wasn't exactly in good taste, but I'd be lying if I didn't think it was satisfying. Special mention must also go to the villain of the piece played by Ray Sahetapy, he was creepy and left me feeling uneasy after his marvellous introductory scene picking off a bunch of hostages one by one.

It's rare you sit in a cinema and hear the audience go "ooo" or "aww" any time a death comes. Only the Saw franchise has probably conjured such a reaction...or The Human Centipede if you're unfortunate enough to find yourself watching that in the cinema. With The Raid the action is so intense, when it stops for a breather you can't relax because there's this genuine sense of dread and suspense it will start again at any given moment. Though this seemed to add to the enjoyment, especially if you find yourself watching it with a bunch of mates. Such the novelty of seeing such a good example of this flagging genre, I even found myself smiling at the gloriously organised chaos which unfolded.

A few production notes, Evans seemed to channel from such films as Assault on Precinct 13, Die Hard and a lesser extent The Warriors for his visual cues, but also every much conjured the feel of old John Woo films in his pre-Hollywood days. He also gets extra points for not dragging the film out any longer than it needed to be. This was a director who just seemed to get the balance of everything you'd expect from these films right. One of the stand out surprises from the film was learning the fantastic score was written partly by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park fame.

Final Thoughts
Relentless, dispassionate, stylish, brutal, bloody, wonderful. The Raid is one of those films which eats you up and spits you out again before you're able to full take in what actually happened. It's no nonsense, it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is, instead of featuring washed up B-Movie actors it features guys you believe could properly kick your ass. Lads, 100 man points for all upon entry to this film. Shame about the already planned US remake...


The Raid: Redemption is in selected cinemas throughout the UK from May 18th 2012

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