Director: Gareth Evans
I actually missed this first time around and didn't watch it till very much later after it's general release. In fact, only hearing about it because of the hype that came after. You could easily been mistaken and think it's a martial art version of Pete Travis' Dredd in 2012 but no, The Raid was released some months before. In fact, the Dredd film was already in production before The Raid, by four months, but The Raid Director didn't get wind of their story until they were already in post-production. I still think of this as a recent release, like a couple of years old and yes, it kinda is but I actually find it hard to believe this came out before Dredd, and that was five years ago!
It's not the first to receive such after-hype success either. The Thai film Ong Bak and the French parkour film District 13 that both came out in 2003 both probably received greater admiration after their general releases, once the hype had got around. District 13 even getting a poor American remake as Brick Mansions. This film has some slight similarities to District 13 in terms of premise, and of you haven't seen it yet I suggest you add it to your watchlist if you're an action junkie.
What is different from the above mentioned films, is the person behind the camera. Different being he's not native to the film's country of origin, that being Indonesia. Gareth Evans is a Welsh director, writer and screenwriter who graduated from the University of Glamorgan with a MA in scriptwriting for Film and Television who went on to receive high acclaim for his short film Footsteps which got awarded best film at the Swansea Bay Film Festival in 2006. His next project was a documentary about Pencak Silat, the recognised fighting style of Indonesia and this is where he met the stars his next venture, his main feature in Indonesia, Merantau in 2009. And then, the Welshman brings us this.
You can tell Evans is a massive fan and great appreciator of the genre, his vision being perfect using clever and intense angles that increases the tension. The suspense is almost borderline horror when waiting to be discovered. I remember actually holding my breath during specific scenes.
The premise seems simple and done before, about a elite police task force carrying out a raid on a building block that is protected by the inhabitants of thugs and gangsters, and it's crime lord Tama, played by legendary Indo actor, Ray Sahetapy, who lives on the top floor. He's the target for their mission, but ends up as some crazy, brutal fight for survival. Our protagonist is Rama, of the elite police agents played superbly by Iko Uwais showing incredible skill that appears to rival other kung fu greats like Jet Li or Tony Jaa. Yes, we've seen it before with films like Die Hard or Under Siege and though Evans had more aspirations for the film, time and budget was a major factor. So, a single location was ideal.
It looks like a typical martial art, kung fu flick on the surface, but Evans' use of camera angles and the editing actually boast more of the western style of fighting films. There's no double takes like we see in Jackie Chan or Jet Li films which emphasises what's going on but instead it's more like the Bourne films where the fighting is furiously fast and violent. Editing in the traditional Hong Kong style would have only ruined the overall effect. The camera work here is astonishing, creating seamlessly, fluid sequences which must have taken quite some planning and choreographing. There's running shots, rotation shots, close-ups, overhead and tracking shots all perfectly captured and cut together. There's some slow-mo, but again, it's used to create a different effect of looming death as oppose to exaggerating action.
The fighting is some of the best I've ever seen on screen, and I've seen a fair amount of decent fight scenes. And there's more than a few incredible sequences worth a mention. The initial corridor brawl, the coke factory fight and especially Mad Dog's fights. They're so fast but still perfectly lucid making each blow make it's impact, but this could be because the fighting is real, yes choreographed, but because of time and budget again being a factor, many fight sequences meant the stars actually going for it; mostly without protection.
Mad Dog is played by Yayan Ruhian who incidentally taught Pencak Silat, the Indonesian martial art, to both the Indonesian military police corps and the presidential security forces in his younger years, also helped choreographed this film along side Uwais and Evans. You can't doubt the man's talent and his character reminds me greatly of John Woo's Mad Dog in Hard Boiled. Possibly the most lethal and dangerous character, an antagonist, but has a code and a strong sense of honour about him.
Iko Uwais wasn't an actor when he met Evans whilst during them researching for the Silat documentary. He was a telephone salesman who happened to be one of the students practising. Evans and his wife was so impressed they approached him and the rest is history. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
The rest of the cast are superb, with a mention of Joe Taslim who plays the police sarge. Some of you might recognise him from Fast 6 as one of Shaw's henchmen, the one that fights Roman and Han at the London train station. This is definitely a film that has got these people noticed, and rightly so. Uwais and Ruhian even got cameos in The Force Awakens as space pirates.
There's actually a little more to the film than just bloody violence. There's a working storyline offering a little more than the basic raid premise. Some sibling rivalry, some interesting characters and even a slight sting but seriously, it's all about the action that just doesn't let you catch your breath.
Also what really works here is the score, a collaboration between Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese. The music really gives the film a great essence of suspense and heightens as the violence increases to an eventual bloody climax. It's certainly one of the most noticeable scores for an action film of this calibre.
It's an immediate classic that deserves all the praise of gets. Plus, I see it as a great tribute to the Martial Art genre.
Up Next: The Raid 2
Running Time: 9
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being a total refreshing addition to the Martial Art genre.