Review: The Raid

The Raid - Madman

Kicking down the doors of restraint, director Gareth Evans follows up the acclaimed Merantau with another relentless action film.

The Raid (2011)

The Raid - Australian poster

Director: Gareth Evans

Writer(s)Gareth Evans

Runtime: 101 minutes

StarringIko UwaisRay SahetapyYayan Ruhian

Distributor: Madman

Country: Indonesia

Rating: Wait for DVD/Blu-ray (?)

More info

When the martial arts stars of the 1990s began to fade on the international stage, audiences were hungry for a new type of action, meeting the realistic expectations of their day-to-day lives of gang warfare and familial vengeance. Stunt choreographer Panna Rittikrai introduced us to a new world of fast-paced pain of Muay Thai in 2003’s Ong-Bak, and upon Welsh director Gareth Evans‘ discovery of Indonesia’s Iko Uwais, Merantau took it all up a notch. Now that latter team is back together again for the highly anticipated The Raid, already riding a wave of hype from its debut on the notorious Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program.

The premise behind The Raid is straightforward enough. In the middle of Jakarta’s slums there is an apartment block controlled by the city’s biggest crime lord, who rents out the wretched hive to scum and villainy . Considered untouchable for years, an elite squad of police storm the castle to bring down drug lord Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy). First they have to get to him, and there are fifteen floors of bad guys between them and their goal. Rookie Rama (Iko Uwais) finds himself in a world of flying fists, bullets and crunchy skulls.

Those looking for any plot beyond that need check out at the first floor, as the next fourteen levels of madness have little need for things like narrative or character development. Instead,  Evans borrows the incompetent lieutenants, the skilled rookie and the weary sergeant from other films. This is action at its most visceral, and as a piece of pure adrenaline it is unquestionably unsurpassed in the last few years. From moment to moment, each set-piece builds on and escalates from the previous one, culminating in the final boss battle. Nobody could accuse the action genre of ever been to plot-heavy or intellectually taxing, and that is certainly not the point of The Raid. It’s an assault on the senses, even the good ones.

The Raid‘s action strips things back to basics, initially bringing guns, then knives and machetes before finally running out of ammo and focusing on fists and limbs instead. This is where the film excels, especially when Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) steps into the fray. A whippet of a fighter, he is as fast as he is brutal, and every flying punch and kick can be felt at neck-breaking speed. When he ultimately goes head-to-head with Iko Uwais, it is and epic sweat and blood soaked brawl that will no doubt go down in the annals of martial arts history.

The Raid

Yet you can have too much of a good thing, and The Raid seems determined to take each awesome moment and stretch it to its longest possible conclusion. This is basic video game stuff, complete with numbered levels, yet even the most basic of brawlers should create a sense of menace around the final boss. By the time the top most floor is reached, the most awe-striking moments have already struck, leaving every subsequent hit failing to have any impact.  The appeal of this simplicity has already been pegged for a 2014 remake, which will undoubtedly strip even the impressively brutal action out of the mix.

The Raid is released in Australia on 22 March 2012 from Madman Films.

  • edmundarkadiy

    Nice review mate. But I’m still confused how does it rate against any other action movies in the last few years. So my question is :

    – how do you rate this in a scale 1 to 10?
    – how does this movie rate against (which one is better):
      1. Ong Bak
      2. Chocolate
      3. The Expendables
      4. Die Hard 4 (Live Free or Die Hard)
      5. Any Jason Statham action movies
      6. Flashpoint
      7. Kill Zone
      8. Ip Man

    • Thanks for your comment, Edmund. I think they are all very different films, with ONG BAK and THE EXPENDABLES both terrific action pieces in their own right, but both having things that won’t match up to others.

      We don’t tend to give scores out of 10, but it would be about halfway up that scale for us. The main problems, as I said, were not so much the quality of the action – which was, as we say, quite impressive – but just how unrelenting it was. No “peaks and troughs”. In our mind, that pushed the action past the point of being interesting to being just exhausting. 

  • 80sfanboy

    Why wouldn’t you talk more about the picture and audio specifications? I for one am very interested in this release, however the US release has the film score by Linken Park (Band) which makes the movie far more enjoyable, does this release? How was the picture, any colour banding or artefacts that you could see? Any cue marks? This was a low budget movie and was filmed to look dark and gritty so I would like to know how the transfer is in regards to the look and sound of this title.