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THE RAID *****
Directed, written, edited by Gareth Huw Evans. Starring Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Setrya, Ray Sahetapy. Indonesia, action/martial arts, TBC mins, cert TBC.
Released on UK screens on the 18th of May by Momentum Pictures.
Put on your crash helmets ladies and gentlemen, because Indonesian action film The Raid is coming. If you aren’t prepared, it will kick your teeth so far down your throat that getting a filling will require the services of a proctologist.
In the slums of Jakarta is a forbidding apartment block. A haven for drug dealers, junkies, gangsters and a few poor individuals with nowhere else to go. The building is wired with surveillance cameras and alarms, each floor guarded by lookouts. Lording over all is gang-lord Tama safe behind an armour plated door on the 15th floor. The building is a virtual fortress.
That is until a SWAT team arrive to assist a cop in infiltrating the building, climbing to its apex, and capturing Jaka with extreme prejudice. The team is heavily armed and trained. What resistance can the occupants of a slum offer up? Quite a bit as it turns out. The raid goes spectacularly off track very early on. The surviving SWAT officers find themselves trapped in 15 stories of pain, suffering and death, fighting for survival room by room against seemingly endless hordes of machete wielding nutters.
The Raid’s star is Iko Uwais playing a young rookie SWAT team member with awesome fight skills. An early dust up sees Uwais demolish about a dozen assailants in a tight corridor. Every part of his body seems to be lethal, feet, knees, elbows, hands, head. While Uwais moves with stunning grace, his fights never seem to be easy. You completely believe that this is a man fighting for his very life. He bleeds, a lot. It’s just as well Uwais is such an amazing fighter, because Tama’s chief enforcer Mad Dog (as played by the diminutive Yayan Ruhian) is the most terrifying kick arse bad guy since Bolo Yeung in Enter the Dragon. Mad Dog hates to use guns, preferring to beat opponents to death with his bare hands and his skills are amply demonstrated during the film.
The Raid wears its influences proudly, the plot is reminiscent of classic John Carpenter thrillers Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York, the kinetic shoot-outs bring to mind Hong Kong heroic bloodshed in its John Woo heyday, but the martial arts on display are truly in their own class. Writer/director Evans, a Welshman who has made several films in Indonesia, has crafted a pulp masterpiece. His plot is lean and very, very mean. His characters express themselves through action - an early scene involving a hammer fully establishes Tama as a truly loathsome villain. Evans staging of action is intricate, innovative, and stylish whilst always serving to show off the incredible skills of his lead actors. Obvious wire work or CGI enhancement is avoided, in its place bone splintering fight scenes that flow like ballet, but feature wince inducing use of blades and blunt instruments. Rivers of blood run down the corridors of the slum.
The Raid is an action film, but like Assault on Precinct 13 in particular, it has an edge of horror. One stunningly suspenseful scene, in which Uwais tries to hide an injured colleague could have been directed by Sam Raimi. The numerous ways in which people are dispatched in the film have Jason Vorhees’ inventiveness. Bodies are shot, stabbed, chopped, broken, leading to audible gasps, winces and occasional awestruck laughter from the audience of jaded film journos I saw it with.
The Raid is both exhilarating and exhausting, and it is very much not for the squeamish. When the credits roll you will feel like you just spent a few minutes in the ring with Mike Tyson. Exceptional, the best martial arts film since Ong Bak, and a strong contender for action film of the year.
NOTE: at our screening we saw the international festival print. On release the film will feature a new score from Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. Apparently he was so impressed by the film he offered his services gratis. By all accounts this is the only change. Of course it still has to be classified by the BBFC. Once this movie would have been cut to ribbons, now it should pass uncut at 18.
Sturart Barr. Review published jointly with Screenjabber.com
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REVIEWS BY FANS FOR FANS
5 STAR FAB - 1 STAR RUBBISH