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