Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Raid

The Raid can be summed up as all style and no substance, but what a fun style it ends up being. The premise is simple. A group of cops in an Indonesian city are about to storm an apartment complex that is housing many criminals in an effort to arrest a crime lord. They walk into a trap and must now fight their way out. The result is arguably one of the most violent and flinch-worthy movies I've seen in a long time. It's action-packed to the brim and that isn't just me being metaphorical. This is just about as non-stop action of an action movie there can be. You'd hear that thrown around every so often, but this time one could actually mean it.

That being said, I did point out that there is little substance to it all. Attempts at even trying to give the story some sort of personal resonance only seem to weaken the impact of the film. The main character is a cop named Rama (Iko Uwais) who when we first meet him, we find out that he is a muslim with a pregnant wife and has a secret connection to the building he is about to storm with his comrades. That is about as deep as the story goes into his character. It's so blatantly an attempt at trying to give the movie some sort of backbone that as a viewer I shrug it off and continue to be in awe of the action sequences.

The choreography to the fighting is brutal. When there aren't any fists flying, the characters are fighting with their elbows or knees and that is if they've dropped their variety of guns and knives. The name of the martial art is called Pencak Silat (look it up, amazing stuff). I hesitate to call this film's fighting style as a thing of beauty like that of say Bruce Lee because this film is intentionally as gritty and no-holds-barred as you can get. It's pretty much Enter the Dragon for the video-game age by way of mixed martial arts. The film is a technical marvel with such impressive production design, sound and picture editing, and cinematography to carry us through the fighting. Just when the fight gets mind numbing, one will notice something extraordinary and new added to the mix (or at least I did).

This is second film from Welsh-born writer-director Gareth Evans and the first that I've seen. Perhaps he'll find a way to add a better narrative to it all, but this is by no means as cruddy as say Act of Valor. Where that movie was similarly all-action and no story, it sadly didn't have any sort of notable style. Not even an attempt at following say Paul Greengrass or Tony Scott. Instead, The Raid has a style and voice to it that I found to be a lot of fun. Shallow fun at that, but still fun.

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