Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Raid Redemption, a brief review

The first five minutes of The Raid: Redemption, and I wasn’t certain where this film was going. The hero Rama (played with honorable stoicism by Iko Uwais) is a family man with a quiet intensity, and he is a part of an elite unit of SWAT officers hired to infiltrate a 30 story building in order to capture a vicious crime lord. Of course, things quickly go awry and the fists and bloodshed gets ramped up as Rama must save his men and his own life.

Aside from the first 5 minutes, the rest of the film surpasses the intensity of most action flicks. The beginning echoes Training Day in that it manages to create an instantly appealing hero on top of the biggest (unrealized) mission of his career. In that we care about the protagonist, we also want to see the villain get destroyed. Call it Aristotelian symmetry. Call it bloodlust. Call it a damn good time.

Whatever it is, we came to see evil vanquished and good triumph. The Raid gives us both.

Once the proverbial feces hits the propeller, there is no stopping the film. Rama fights his way through 30 floors of chaos with knives, fists, bullets and very heavy objects. The violence is bone-breaking and the choreography is breathtaking. There are elements of Tony Jaa from Ong Bak, but here the filmmaking is refined and nearly perfect.

Shaky-cam and blistering editing accentuate the ferocity of the fight scenes, with the clipping fast enough to keep the scenes moving, but not enough to add any confusion. The lighting is crisp and sharp, taking heart from Michael Mann and the editing of Michael Bay. Fast, harsh and unending until the climactic fight.

The characters are well developed, particularly the main henchmen. He says very little, but his body language and ability to fight with a twisted sense of honor made him quite memorable. His battle with the protagonist has to be one of the single best fight scenes I’ve yet to see. Better than Eastern Promises and The Bourne Ultimatum. You feel the blows and I’ve never gripped my knees that hard before.

The ending does lack a punch, and a few plot threads are solved a little too easily. The motivations are there, but the film seems to lack a proper climax in that the villains are dispatched and the social implications are not. There is an attempted ambiguity, but it seems unnecessary given the heroic character of Rama and the blistering depravity of Tama. But, the final battle of titans is strong enough to carry everything to it’s (mostly) proper place.

Singularly epic and thrilling, The Raid: Redemption represents the best of action cinema. Alongside Collateral, The French Connection and The Grey, the story is simple enough to follow, yet not predictable enough to remove any threat of shifting alliances. The action sequences are innovative and kinetic, and memorable enough to be worth a repeated viewing. 

4.5 out of 5.

The Christian Manifesto Review

and for the trailer: