Eastern martial art films are a challenge to discuss as they appeal to an audience with a very particular set of interests and … well, by definition they belong to a genre so far removed from the sensible mainstream that unless they have a huge marketing budget to support an anomaly success they are relegated to the lower sub genre shelves.
|Gareth Evans in conversation|
|The Raid Review|
This means that usually Western audiences lose interest as they are left to take the on-screen action at face value and in doing so – usually lose all the sub text and the heart of the story.
Well if the Director is Gareth Evans he blows the bloody doors off! Or more accurately he makes an all out action film that that is light on subtext and says what it does on the tin, keeping the audience engaged throughout.
I loved The Raid or Invasion Death (Serbuan maut) as it is known in at home. It is an all out action film that doesn’t hold back or compromise with its fairly straight forward conceit.
Indonesian Capital Jakarta is a dangerous city and rife with corruption & crime - in the heart of the slums there is a secure 30 story block used by a ruthless gang lord (Ray Sahetapy) to house amongst other residents, the cities most despicable citizens. Attempts from both the Authorities and rival gangs have ended in failure as the gang lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy) and his two lieutenants; the muscle - Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and the brains - Andi (Donny Alamsyah) run a tight and brutal stranglehold on the city.
On the particular day the film picks up we follow Rama (Iko Uwais) and the rest of his rookie SWAT team led by Jaka (Joe Taslim) as they are sent into the block on a mission to capture the gang lord Tama.
What follows is 101 minutes of all out hard core action one level up from anything seen on screen before and I'm talking about a level of action possibly only previously exhibited by John Woo’s action masterpiece Hard Boiled - a film I have often equated to as watching the first 3 Die Hard films rolled into one or in part by Chan-wook Park's Oldboy or Jeong-beom Lee's The Man from Nowhere
Sadly the reality of watching 3 Die Hard films in one sitting is not as great in practise as the theory would suggest and it comes a little unstuck the ¾’s mark - a problem The Raid suffers a lot less from, as it is a much smaller, more focussed film with a lot less bloated & pointless storytelling in between the action sequences. The subtext is light and doesn't need to be laboured as the narrative of The Raid is focussed on the good and pure of heart SWAT team trying to make it out of a death trap full of heavily armed ruthless and brutal villains.
From the outset the first thing that struck me about The Raid was the great sound design that blends into an outstanding score by Mike Shinoda - the guy from Linkin Park. Clearly inspired by John Carpenter Shinoda builds the tension with heavy mechanical throbs, dull body blow drums and piercing electronica, complementing the visuals to bring an edgy, dirty & claustrophobic ambience as well as a haunting tone to the film that echoes the hopelessness of slum life and the SWAT teams increasing desperation. This all comes together creating an itch that needs scratching,
Throughout the film you hear every crushing blow and bone crunching break with cringe worthy accuracy. See The Raid at a cinema with a decent audio system it will be worth it.
The Raid is Director Gareth Evans’s third film, the first - Footsteps a £10,000 feature set in Cardiff, his second – Merantau a low budget kick ass Indonesian film exhibiting the Indonesian martial art of Silat by the same team featured in The Raid. You wouldn't know that Evan's only has 2 films under his belt watching The Raid - with uncanny skill he keeps the visuals tight and on point and his handy cam technique allows him to get up close and right in the action and it all moves along at a frenetic pace brought on by sharp editing. Which all comes into its own when capturing the highlights of The Raid - that is: the physical performances and fight scenes from the very talented cast. They are absolutely awe inspiring and just when you think the film has peaked the next scene ups the stakes and delivers an even more unbelievable and brutal confrontation, similar to the game levels leading to Boss level.
The action spans gun fights, knife (& pretty much anything the fighters can lay their hands on) fights and eventually resorts to hand to hand combat. The fighting is some of the best I have ever seen on screen. They really are unbelievable. If you read The Establishing Shot you know that I was absolutely blown away by the knife fight in 2010’s The Man For Nowhere. The Raid is like an entire film of that quality of fight choreography it is absolutely outstanding from start to finish. A couple of time during the film I found myself on the edge of my seat cringing as blows landed with full effect, so dire is the situation they find themselves in.
The Raid is brutal and doesn't compromise on - or glamorise violence you will want it to stop but it is unrelenting and the tension was only broken when the audience cheered after a fight finished and a good guy got the upper hand (so dire is the situation they find themselves in) or a couple of times when we broke into laughter with the action on screen going past the point of seriousness - there is a hilarious bit were the good guy smashes a bad guy into a wall and makes sure he hits his head on every light on his way down.
The low-res scene below is part of one of my favourite scenes from The Raid when Rama (Iko Uwais) is cornered and has to fight his way down a corridor. If you don’t want any spoilers don’t watch it, quite frankly I’m surprised the clip is out there but this gives you a flavour of what to expect from The Raid and future action star Iko Uwais.
The Raid is in cinemas 18 May, 2012
For more information and updates about The Raid:
Follow Director Gareth Evans on Twitter here http://twitter.com/#!/ghuwevans
Winner of the 2011 Midnight Madness People’s Choice Audience Award atthe Toronto Film Festival, the Audience and Critics’ Choice Awards at the2012 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, THE RAID stars thenewest martial arts sensation, Iko Uwais, was directed by Gareth Evans and features a kick ass score by Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese.
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Stars: Iko Uwais, Ananda George and Ray Sahetapy
|Craig's is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.|
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