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The Raid: Redemption (2011)

November 15, 2012

MY CALL:  More throat and joint strikes than in Taken.  If you like martial arts movies you’d be a fool to pass this up.  [A]  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  If you enjoy seeing truly innovative choreography that actually manages to make sense of small fighters demolishing larger and numerous opponents then you should really turn to movies by Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate, Raging Phoenix) and Tony Jaa (The Protector, Ong-Bak but not Ong-Bak 2 or 3).  But don’t watch Merantau(2009)—it has the same director and star as this, but neither of them do comparably well with the movie.  ALTERNATE TITLE:  Originally titled “Serbuan muat,” The Raid is directed by Gareth Evans (Merantau, and writer in the upcoming sequel to horror anthology V/H/S).

Rama (Iko Uwais; Merantau) and his SWAT team infiltrate the dangerous, goon-ridden lair of a criminal Demigod, Tama (he’s like an Indonesian Javier Bardem).  Tama’s building is festooned with dangerous tenants and Tama’s bodyguards.  Like Dredd 3D, this movie is basically set up like a 90s videogame.  The SWAT team enters the building and conquers it one “level” (i.e., floor) at a time until they reach the “the last guy.”  For whatever reason this building is basically unguarded and without surveillance on the outside, but loaded with danger on the inside which, again, adds to the videogame appeal.

Led by SWAT Sgt. Jaka (Joe Taslim; Dead Mine, The Fast and the Furious 6), the first few levels offer no challenge as they essentially just restrain (for future arrest) drug dealers, junkies and petty criminals.  But when somene hits the alarm, all criminal hands on deck are alerted to the police invaders.  We also learn, much to Jaka’s surprise, that this mission is off the books and they can’t call for back up.

Initially, the action focuses on gunfights.  I was less than thrilled with the occasional shaky camera-work during gun fight scenes, but it didn’t terribly interrupt my enjoyment and this never happened during the martial arts scenes—and martial arts are basically all we get for the next hour!

Brutal, technical, graphic and gory.  There’s some good use of slow motion footage, glorious axe-impaling action, close-up gun shots to the face, and more discharged ammunition than the Morpheus rescue scene in The Matrix.  Iko Uwais truly shocks and impresses during his first fight, a wide-shot tonfa-knife fight with about ten opponents and we get to see every single stab, kick and crush as he unleashes a flurry a supremely fast and elaborate, but clearly observed techniques.  VERY IMPRESSIVE!!!  The best part is that if they used any tricks, like wire work or 1.2x film speed, I can’t tell.  They also kept the choreography, while utterly brutal, practical.  No jump spin kicks or gratuitous acrobats.  Just a flood of flesh-lacerating strikes including one of the most unique neck breaks I’ve ever seen!  Iko Uwais doesn’t look like much, but he has truly proven himself to be a martial arts movie star!

Then there’s Mad Dog (Vayan Ruhian; Merantau).  This guy is tiny.  I mean like young boy who doesn’t play sports tiny, by American standards.  However, when he and Jaka (who is MUCH larger) fight you find his power shockingly credible.  They both handle complex choreography very well, Mad Dog much better than Jaka, and they produce a fight with techniques executed from realistic positions that I doubt I’ve ever seen on film before.

When Rama gets to the drug prep and processing floor, every single drug handler could have been the master of a martial arts school.  While this would be comically annoying in most American action hero-driven releases, I didn’t mind a bit.  Why?  Because it added yet more action to a movie that seems to be non-stop action and the fight quality never majorly dropped with the insignificance of the opponent (i.e., those stunt men cast as drug handlers #1-12).

Mad Dog versus Rama and another tough guy…that was a treat.  Mad Dog may be small, but he fights like a rabid Chihuahua on steroids that just won’t die!  Despite his tiny size, very clever choreography permits him just the right stance, credible momentum and position to throw or unbalance much larger, stronger opponents.  Rama is also small, but notably larger than Mad Dog.

This movie was AMAZING!  The Hof also loved this movie.  Here’s his review [click here].

This is Iko Uwais (Rama).  At first glance I’d think I could take on five of him.  Having seen what he can do, now I think maybe he could take on five of me!

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