The Raid has been hailed as the best action films in years, and it’s true that Gareth Evans’ feature has got the goods when it comes to punching, kicking, stabbing and shooting.
Evans has a definite visual flair for cinematic storytelling that’s often missing in your typical martial arts movie. Usually, we’re treated to some extraordinary stunt work but rather disappointing camerawork, sound and editing. The Raid, however, is masterfully constructed. The fights are captured flawlessly, yes, but there are moments of tension that are perfect examples of cinematic montage and prove that Evans is indeed a talent to be reckoned with.
The plot is fairly simple. A powerful crime boss lives at the top of a rundown high rise apartment block that’s entirely populated by his employees, drug addicts and other unfortunates. The police plan to finally put an end to the man’s illegal empire and raid the premises. Pretty much the entire film takes place within the building, and it will come as no surprise that the raid doesn’t go the least bit according to plan.
Let me be clear: the action on display is wonderful. If the fights involved any wire-related trickery, I certainly couldn’t spot it, and I have no idea how the participants didn’t break every bone in their bodies. The film doesn’t hold back on the gore front either, and this is another thing that sets it apart from others of its ilk. The average martial arts movie is usually all in good fun – in true Looney Tunes fashion we see very little blood. The Raid, however, is about as gory as a horror flick. A lot of it is CGI blood but the make-up team were busy also. Unfortunately, this put me off the film somewhat. It just seemed a bit too nasty. I’m not used to squirming in my seat when it comes to action movies.
The other big problem with the film is that it doesn’t bother with characterisation. I realise this is an out-and-out action movie so we don’t need any great depth, but it could have at least done with the varied caricatures/stereotypes we see in movies like Predator. Instead we have a group of cops all dressed identically, and the only distinctive features are that one is slightly better at martial arts and another is a bit of a dick.
The Indonesian martial art, Pencak Silat, is the real star here, as Iko Uwais et al throw themselves around a bunch of sets that look unsurprisingly similar. As an action movie, The Raid is perfectly constructed and boasts some jaw-dropping stunts. The characterisations and dialogue are completely underwhelming, however, and the movie doesn’t seem to want us to like any of the characters.Rating: