The Raid: Redemption
Directed by Gareth Evans
Screenplay by Gareth Evans
Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Setrya, Ray Sahetapy
How long is The Raid: Redemption? 101 minutes.
What is The Raid: Redemption rated? R for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, and language.
The most exhilarating adrenaline rush
ever unleashed on movie audiences.
Few movies arrive in theatres with the amount of much-deserved hype that The Raid: Redemption has behind it. After blowing audiences away last year at the Sundance Film Festival (under the original title The Raid) and at South By Southwest this year, The Raid: Redemption will begin rolling out to wider audiences this weekend and will continue to astonish viewers with the most inventive and brutal fight sequences of the last 20 years.
The film opens on a man going through his morning routines as he prepares for the day. We see Rama (Iko Uwais) wake long before the sun is up, then proceed to meditate and exercise. His workout regimen involves strength training and delivering a fury of lightning-fast punches to an underserving heavy bag. As he dresses, we realize he is a police officer, but his youthful appearance makes him look childlike in the uniform, as if he is playing dress up. He kisses his pregnant wife goodbye and they have a cryptic exchange we will come to understand later in the film.
Instead of heading to the police station, Rama piles into the back of a SWAT van with a group of similarly young-looking officers, all of whom are more than a little on edge. The sergeant, Jaka (Joe Taslim), tells the men that they have been chosen to infiltrate the rundown apartment building that is run by a drug lord known as Tama (Ray Sahetapy). Since Tama allows all manner of criminals and drug addicts to inhabit the dilapidated building with no fear of the cops ever entering, they are extremely loyal to him and willing to protect him with their lives.
Jaka and his men enter the building almost silently and begin to ascend floor by floor, incapacitating and silencing anyone they encounter. The mission progresses smoothly until one of the Tama’s spotters sets off an alarm that reverberates throughout the building, alerting every inhabitant to the presence of intruders. In his comfortable perch on one of the highest floors, watching Jaka and his men on a bank of security monitors, Tama announces over a PA system that unwelcome guests have entered the building and should be dealt with immediately. Tama also says that anyone who helps rid the building of the infestation will be allowed to live in the building rent free. Trapped on one of the middle floors, the men must either attempt to finish the mission or escape with their lives.
Written and directed by Gareth Evans, The Raid: Redemption is without question one of the most thrilling action movies ever made. Similar to how Nicholas Winding Refn withholds and then unleashes violence in films like Pusher and Drive, Evans also orchestrates his nonstop martial arts spectacular with the precision of a much more veteran filmmaker. In fact, if one wasn’t aware that The Raid: Redemption was only his third feature film, one could easily mistake him for a director as experienced as Luc Besson or Michael Mann.
Evans’ two previous features (Merantau and Footsteps) are also action-focused, but were not honored with the tremendous reception that The Raid: Redemption is receiving. This is due to the impressive feat that Evans has pulled off. His film makes no qualms about being almost purely action-driven (character development is almost non-existent), but it is not mindless action. The film is essentially a series of fight sequences, but the stakes for each encounter are so much greater than the last that tension builds not just within each individual fight but within the film as a whole. Since we are never entirely sure who will be the victor in each fight (Evans throws more than a few surprises at us) or whether the mission will be completed, the audience becomes highly invested in the unfortunate officers who have been chosen, especially the selfless Rama, played wonderfully by Iko Uwais.
Not only is Uwais the star of The Raid: Redemption (as well as Evans’ Merantau), he is also one of the film’s two fight choreographers, along with Yayan Ruhian who plays Mad Dog, Tama’s second-in-command. With the help of Uwais and Ruhian, Evans has captured some of the most amazing fights ever seen in cinema. In 2002, The Bourne Identity set the bar for fight choreography that was both realistic and relentless. Now, Evans and Co. has made Jason Bourne and his imitators look like amateurs, with fights that push the performers’ bodies to their physical limit. Even this year’s highly praised Haywire, which featured some terrific fight scenes, looks mundane in comparison to The Raid: Redemption.
The film’s plot is, Evans admits, partly an excuse to set the action within one structure, similar to The Towering Inferno or Die Hard. Evans shows his hand a little too early in the story when it comes to several subplots that were supposed to lead to “Aha!” moments later in the film. Keen (or even not so keen) audiences will be able to surmise how the film will play out in many respects, but Evans’ oversight in no way detracts from the film’s overall impact which lands like a punch to the gut.
The Raid: Redemption is in a league all its own in the world of martial arts or action movies. Evans has already said that his plans for this film have always involved a trilogy which, if it happens, means The Raid: Redemption is just the beginning of some landmark filmmaking.
Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including “Playback:STL” and “The Weissman Report.” He holds a Master’s of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said “No, you can’t watch that.”