Written and directed by Gareth Edwards
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
When was the last time you saw an action movie that made you repeatedly exclaim “Holy shit!” out loud while watching it? Look at a recent action movie like the Total Recall remake. A hundred million dollars worth of digital effects and pyrotechnics and not a single moment that induces the sort of did-I-just-see-that moment you’ll want to rewind over and over like you will something as simple as how someone gets tossed out a window or killed with a broken door frame in Gareth Edwards’ Indonesian action tour-de-force The Raid: Redemption.
Edwards has combined the classic Die Hard scenario with vintage Hong Kong-era John Woo gunplay and bone-crunching martial arts of the Tony Jaa variety to craft a white knuckle love letter to hardcore action movie fans. This isn’t a special effects blockbuster. It isn’t over-stylized. It isn’t hyper-edited. It’s just incredible pulse-pounding action choreography connected by a simplistic – possibly too simplistic for some viewers – kill or be killed plotline.
A SWAT team is sent in to raid a multi-story apartment complex controlled by a ruthless crime boss operating out of the top floor. Halfway up their plan goes to hell and they find themselves trapped, fighting for their lives with armed henchmen hunting them with snipers outside the building just waiting for them to stick their heads out. When the crime lord gets on the loud speaker to inform his tenants, almost all of which are lowlife criminals, that anyone who kills a cop gets free rent for life, the chaos to follow sometimes takes on the veneer of a 28 Days Later zombie flick if the zombies were machete-wielding maniacs possessing a modicum of kung fu prowess.
If there’s one thing I learned from watching this film, it’s that everyone in Indonesia owns a machete. Indonesian bad guys may run out of guns, but they’ll never run out machetes. More machetes are used in this movie than in Machete. If Jason Voorhees were stalking an Indonesian summer camp, he’d successfully kill one counselor and then everyone else at the camp would whip out their machetes and hack him to pieces.
Just when it can’t get any worse for this SWAT team, they discover their little raid is so far off the books nobody knows where they are or will come looking for them anytime soon. Those not killed in the initial counterattack have only two options: continue pushing forward and take down the crime boss or try to find some way, any way, out of this building; and regardless of which direction they choose, bad guys are coming at them from around the corner, behind the door, outside the window, dropping through the floors and ceilings.
Looking like Dev Patel’s ass-kicking older brother, Indonesian martial arts sensation Iko Uwais stars as Rama, your basic everyman action hero risking his own life to protect his friends while longing to get home alive to his very pregnant wife. He’s an everyman except for his lightning fast martial arts reflexes. Though he sometimes seems superhuman in the feats he performs and his ability to eliminate multiple adversaries at a time in close quarter combat, he’s not superman: He can be hurt and would have perished on more than one occasion if not for the help of others.
The main bad guys are a trio of tried and true villainous archetypes: the scummy criminal overlord without an ounce of humanity, a younger, brains-behind-the-operation lieutenant with ulterior motives, and a ruthless enforcer known as “Mad Dog” because that’s precisely what he is.
Mad Dog looks like a shorter, sleazier Al Leong, and he’s such a badass, preferring fisticuffs to gunplay, he’ll happily give the good guys a 2-on-1 advantage if it means they might actually be able to give him a challenge. When the final showdown with Mad Dog was over, I felt exhausted just watching the three of them go at it for so long.
The fact that I felt drained watching an action scene is one of the many reasons why watching a movie like this will make you realize so much of what is missing from action movies these days.
It may not be for everyone, but for the people it is for, it’s one of the best of its kind to come along in years. The Raid: Redemption is the sort of visceral action extravaganza best viewed in a group setting so you can all have a blast letting out collective “oohs”, “ahs”, and “holy shits!”
The special features add up to just as sweet of a package as the film itself, especially the commentary track and the various featurettes. Sony’s given The Raid: Redemption exactly the kind of package it deserves and more.
4 out of 5
4 out of 5