The Raid (2012)
“1 Ruthless Crime Lord, 20 Elite Cops, 30 Floors of Hell”
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
Synopsis: A S.W.A.T. team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.
Movies don’t come more high-concept than this Indonesian movie written and directed by Welshman Gareth Evans — and Lord only knows how that unique combination came about — but although it’s plot can effectively be described in one sentence, it provides an entertaining and sometimes enthralling action/martial arts movie that benefits from most of the action taking place within the confines of a heavily fortified apartment block.
Although I suggested that the plot could be described in one sentence, I’m a typically egotistical reviewer who likes to hear the clacking of the keys on my keyboard so, like the astonishing fights in this movie, I might overrun just a little bit. The Raid follows a bad day at the office for rookie SWAT member Rama (Iko Uwais) who is part of a 20-man team assigned to take down Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy), a drugs lord who has assumed control of a run-down apartment block in the heart of Jakarta’s slums. Not only has Tama installed surveillance equipment in the corridors of the building, but he’s also rented the rooms out to a small army of criminals and misfits, many of whom are hiding out from the police. As Rama prepares for the day at home, we see him promise his father that he will ‘bring him back,’ an enigmatic statement that adds a personal element to his mission.
Things go badly once the team has gained entry to the building when the senior officer, Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) shoots one of the look-outs, who just has time to shout a warning before Wahyu’s bullet hits him. Almost immediately, the troop find themselves under a hail of gunfire as Tama issues an announcement promising rewards for all residents who participate in hunting down and killing the police intruders. His offer sparks a series of violent and bloody confrontations between the dwindling number of police officers and a seemingly endless stream of criminals intent on taking their lives.
The Raid is essentially one of those combat video games brought to life, but it’s at least brought to the screen with style and energy and manages to inject some individuality into its cast of characters. Director Evans — who also wrote the screenplay — shows his relative inexperience at times; at one point he cuts away from a tense (if familiar) sequence in which a machete-wielding goon slowly moves down a narrow corridor around the corner from which three unarmed officers are hiding to focus on events taking place in another part of the building, thus instantly defusing the tension from the original scene. He does later return to it, but it’s almost as an afterthought, and the incident eventually goes nowhere. For the most part, however, Evans keeps the energy levels high and is never more than a turn in the corridor away from another fight scene.
The fight scenes are quite astonishing, and choreographed with a precision that is truly breath-taking. Unlike so many of today’s action movies, Evans has his cameraman shoot from a distance so that we can actually see the combatants fighting rather than a flurry of flailing arms and close-ups of sweaty, snarling faces, which seems to be the usual procedure for shooting fights these days. Many of the fights also last much longer than usual, with the participants visibly tiring as the blows take effect.
The Raid isn’t a perfect action movie, but it possesses enough verve and confidence in itself to overcome its flaws and provide fans of action movies with probably the best entry in the genre for a decade or more.