After months of anticipation and early press buzz, I finally had my chance to see the much hyped Indonesian action film The Raid:Redemption. With almost no fluff and no filler, how many floors would I survive?
In the Jakarta slums is an apartment building run by a crime lord Tama Riyandi who is known for his ruthless tactics and brutal justice. In an effort to reclaim the slums an elite force of 20 swat members is tasked with reclaiming the building floor by floor and taking out Tama. This long considered untouchable building (even to the police) is a run down stone block fortress that may look innocent from the outside but is teaming with residents loyal to their leader and who will use any means necessary to maintain their crime ridden state. The swat team arrives in the early morning with hopes of catching the Tama off guard and the slow takeover of the building begins. Everything goes as planned until they reach the 6th floor and a lapse in judgement leads to a little boy tipping off Tama to their presence and the protection measures of the building start to fall in place. The swat team of 20 doesn’t quite know the hell they are about to go through in the pursuit of one man.
The action and martial arts are worthy of the price of admission and while his action sequences seem raw, writer/director Gareth Evans pulls the best shots and the best out of his actors in each scene. Taking a confined hallway or stairwell and turning it into frenzied fire fight or hand to hand combat battle. The action is really at the core of this film and is the main attraction in this light on story, heavy on action film. The guns seem to all but disappear half way through the film and the martial arts action takes center stage. Highly choreographed punches, kicks and flying bodies fill the second half of the film and increase your heart rate a bit in the process. You might even walk out of the film rubbing you back a bit with all of the epic scenes involving the shattering of a spine including the funny/cringe worthy scene involving one of the baddies going over the rail in the stair well only to land on his back on a railing a floor or two below. These are the great moments of the film, the ones that leave you smiling and engaged in the action.
My only complaint is the rather flat first act of the film which in all fairness, is used as a dialog heavy setup in most films where as in this film there was little set up needed and i wanted to jump into the action quicker. It isn’t until the swat team reaches the 7th floor and we see an Oldboy-esque track shot in a hallway, that the film finds its foot hold. The big fight scene towards the end of the film goes on for a minute or two too long, but you can’t fault Evans for wanting to go overboard on his final fight scene because it had to top all that led up to this point.
This martial arts, action film was a fun as hell ride and a great opener to the summer movie season. A great afternoon popcorn flick that will remind you in parts of Die Hard and that is never bad company. The ending of the film might leave a few cold but I felt that, while it isn’t a blatant “we are making sequel” setup, it sure has propped itself up nicely for more over the top action and fists flying.