The Raid (2011): Insane Indonesian Action Thriller

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I picked up this high-octane insane Indonesian action thriller for the unbelievably low price of 6 pounds stirling (that’s about 9 US dollars) Looking at the DVD art and reading the “preview” of the film on the back of the DVD, it looked and sounded like it could be a sort of distant cousin to the French film The Horde.

It isn’t.  Although the basic premise itself is…a little.

Both films deal with police converging on a criminal  for personal rather than legal reasons; but that is the only similarity that the two films have. It did not mean that I was disappointed with The Raid: Redemption. On the contrary, I loved it.

Written and directed by Gareth Evans and starring Iko UwaisAnanda George, and Ray Sahetapy The Raid is about a 20 man SWAT team who are after a Jakarta gangster kingpin who lives in a high-rise derelict apartment building that is considered impregnable. The team is composed mainly of new recruits with only a few members having any real experience in the field.

The reason that the building’s considered to be impossible to breach is down to the fact that the kingpin has filled it with criminal types and lower-income people who “owe” him for giving them a place to stay.

On the way to the building the SWAT team leader explains that the kingpin, Tama Rihadi (Sahetepy) has two “right-hand” men. One is the extremely dangerous Mad Dog  (Yayan Ruhian) and the other is the incredibly intelligent Andi (Donny Alamsyah). Once the team arrives they split into two groups and begin to take the building, floor by floor, room by room.

Moving up floor by floor.
Moving up floor by floor.

After they reach the sixth floor, Tama finds out that they are in the building. He makes an announcement over the buildings loudspeakers that whoever helps him to repel the intruders will be allowed to live in the building rent free for life. He then tells the apartments occupants to enjoy themselves.

Thus begins a battle of life and death for the beleaguered and outnumbered SWAT team.

The film uses a high-speed mix of gunplay and martial arts to move the action forward. It is incredibly fast paced and the action is relentless.

And relentless is a good way to describe the martial arts fight scenes. Like the 2008 film Chocolate and it’s follow-on film (not really a sequel than another vehicle for the film’s star JeeJa Yanin) the 2009 film Raging Phoenix the choreography for the fights look brilliant. Each sequence must have taken weeks to shoot and the effort shows. The stuntmen must have been black and blue for months after filming had finished.

Each fight scene is complex and they look so real, you start looking for real blood; incredibly impressive and not let down by the film’s gunplay. When the films main protagonist Rama (Uwais) fights his way through wave after wave of bad guys in the building’s hallways, it puts the fight scene out of Chan-wook Park‘s 2003 film Oldboy to shame.

In fact the fight scenes all feature such meticulous choreography that there are no obvious misses or “close-call” shots that show clearly that these battles are faked. Realism is the order of the day and that is what impresses most of all about this film.

Ouch.
Ouch.

Interestingly enough this is the first Indonesian film (that I’ve seen) that started life as a non-Indonesian project. Gareth Evans had to “translate” his English script to Indonesian in order for it to be made. The film ultimately benefited from Sony taking it under it’s entertainment wing in terms of distribution.

It opened with generally favourite, if not rave, reviews and has been accepted very well by audiences and critics alike. Shot on an estimated budget of just over one million dollars, the film looks anything but low-budget. *On a side note, isn’t funny to think that anything under 10 million dollars is considered “low budget?”*

Of course it is even more surprising when you consider that all the weapons used in the film were Airsoft replicas and not functioning firearms. All the shots of the guns action’s:  cycling, muzzle flashes and casings ejecting were added digitally. *Courtesy of IMDb.*  Considering how many “rounds” were expended in this film, I would have thought that would have cost a fortune.

This is a great action thriller and I’m not alone in my opinion. The Raid: Redemption has garnered quite a few awards and the film’s creator has hinted that this is part of a planned trilogy. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

I also have to mention the films score by Mike Shinoda. The soundtrack fit the film’s scenes and themes like a skintight glove. Moving the action and accentuating the constant flow of the story.

All the actors gave a believable  performance with “hats-off” to Iko Uwais as Rama and Yayan Ruhian as Mad Dog. Ruhian as the rat-faced inhuman martial arts killing machine was impressive beyond belief. He was like a walking advert for homicidal ADHD (ADD). I can describe his fight scenes with one word. Wow.

Mad Dog. Scarier without the gun.
Mad Dog. Scarier without the gun.

Great film and I’d recommend watching it with subtitles versus the dubbed versions. There appears to be a sound problem with the dubbed version and I’m pretty sure that any dubbing would take away from the films impact anyway.

My final verdict is a full 5 out of 5 stars for insanely fast paced film that kept me glued to the screen for the entire film. Great fight choreography and the final fight scene is worth the price of admission alone.

Rama, getting ready for another wave of attackers.
Rama, getting ready for another wave of attackers.

A keeper.

*Check out  the special features for Lee Hardcastle’s Claycat’s The Raid claymation short. It is Brilliant, gory, fun.*