Wednesday, August 1, 2012

THE RAID: REDEMPTION - An Exercise in Non-Biased Film Review

The Raid: Redemption

Directed by Gareth Evans
Starring Iko Uwais, Ray Sahetapy, Joe Taslim

A great deal has been written about this movie on the inter-webs over the past year or so. It's a flick that wowed audiences at a number of film festivals and all over Indonesia (where it was made). Eventually making it's way to American screens (legitimately), The Raid was given a subtitle and limited release earlier this year. I got a chance to see it then and now on the eve of it's DVD/BluRay release (9/12/12), I feel like my brain has finally recovered enough to talk about it. Recover from what exactly? Well, let me explain…

The Raid punched the inside of my eyes. It was so feverishly visceral that my pulse was fluctuating during the course of actions scenes. This is something that had never happened to me before… or that I can recall. I assume this kind of excitement occurred when I was very, very young and less jaded as a movie goer. Hyperbole aside… this is the greatest hand-to-hand action movie I've ever seen. End quote.

I know we focus a lot on horror here at Midnight Cheese, but this movie is so steeped in many genre tropes that it's hard not to compare it to a great kung-fu or western film. Elements of both are subtly weaved in throughout the narrative.

Speaking of the narrative, The Raid: Redemption is a simple story but with elegant execution. A SWAT team raids a 30 story tenement building run by Tama (Ray Sahetapy), the biggest of bad guys. Tama not only lives there, but it's his base of operations, filled with the cities largest concentration of scum and villainy. They're protected by Tama as long as they are willing to defend him on occasion. When the SWAT team is discovered on the fifth floor, Tama activates the building with some weighty incentives. Very heavy opposition stands between our good guys and escaping alive. The real heart of the story lies in our hero police officer Rama (Iko Uwais), who has a motivation beyond justice that's keeping him alive. 

The fight choreography is some of the best I've ever seen in any flick. The hits are hard, fast, and gritty. There is a guttural style of fighting on display, using every element of their surroundings and any advantage. People are ruthlessly beaten and brutally killed, but it's never exploitative. You feel the desperation of these men and can't help but wince when a fist connects. One fight in particular between Mad Dog (Tama's most ruthless and unassuming bodyguard) and the SWAT captain, Jaka, is especially brutal and emotional. These men have only a few scenes of character building before the fight, but so much of their beings is expressed through the fight that it becomes one of the more emotional moments of the entire film. This is not just practiced choreography, these men are effectively fighting for everything they hold dear and you can feel it.

Its not just the action, but the extreme sense of tension that flows over you while the film escalates. It's so palpable that each little victory gets a biggest emotional release than any action set piece in all of Michael Bay's robot movies combined. 

I have gladly stepped over the line of talking a movie up too much, but I will take that risk. I feel confident enough about The Raid that any amount of praise will not diminish it's impact. This movie is immune to high compliments, because it simply delivers. 

Please, pick this up when you have the chance… and if you do so illegally, do something for me- When it blows you away (and it will), you have the obligation to spread the word and/or give these filmmakers your money. You will have that change on September 12th.

Now go forth, and spread the word. The word of The Raid.

For your eye-hole pleasure, I've included both the Red Band (ultra-violent) and the Domestic (more story-based) trailers for this little gem, in that order. Enjoy! Enjoy!

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