Having first wowed audiences with his film Merantau, director Gareth Huw Evans brings silat (Indonesian martial arts) back to the big screen in The Raid and does not skimp on the action or the violence. The music explodes as the film begins and the soundtrack (from composers Mike Shinoda and Josephn Trapanese) does not let up, keeping pace with the action and adding to the overall adrenaline rush of the film.
The Raid is pretty much what the title suggests: a highly-trained SWAT team descends upon the building of the city’s most notorious crime leader, Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who rules every floor of his building with unforgiving brutality. Tasked with bringing him to justice, the team is warned of what they are walking into, but nothing could prepare them for the all-out onslaught waiting for them as it becomes clear that all the building’s tenants are not just ruled by Tama, most take great pleasure in hunting those who try and threaten him.
Evans wastes no time getting into the action as the team’s situation quickly spins out of control and does not let up until the final frame. Led by Rama (Iko Uwais), his dedication to getting his team (and himself) out safely provides some of the films most electrifying (and unforgettable) action scenes turning door jams and stairwells into unexpected weapons.
It is not all violence and close-ups on bullets flying through people’s necks, there is a story here as Rama discovers the real reason his team was brought into this situation, and the fact that he is closer to one of Tama’s henchmen than he realized. Navigating that relationship in the face of constant and unrelenting assaults is no easy task, but Uwais proves that he is not only skilled at silat but is also compelling in a leading role with some emotional weight.
Evans distinct style is at play here with unflinching close ups on the violence as the camera zooms in on (rather than cutting away from) people getting shot at from point blank range or having a knife ripped across their throat. And if you think almost two hours of hand-to-hand combat would grow tedious, Evans proves that he has no boundaries when it comes to the various ways one could meet their demise. Each time you think you have seen just how far he could push things, he moves that line back another foot.
The Upside: The highlight of The Raid, and what Evans does well, are the intense and inventive action scenes that are unquestionable brutal while still being highly entertaining. Plus the story that eventually seeps through it is surprisingly engaging as well.
The Downside: If you do not like violence (and close ups of that violence), this is probably not the movie for you.
On the Side: Probably not intentional, but when Tama opens a drawer filled with only a hammer and loose bullets it was hard not think of one of the more memorable scenes in Drive.