The Raid: Redemption (Indonesia, 2011)

Written and directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, The Raid: Redemption (although simply titled The Raid in the rest of the world) is an action flick from Indonesia that showcases the fighting style of Pencak Silat.  The film stars Iko Uwais, who has studied Silat since the age of ten.  Uwais was discovered by Gareth Evans during the filming of a documentary on the Indonesian martial arts.   Prior to The Raid, Iko Uwais starred in Evans’ action film Merantau (2009).

A SWAT team from the Jakarta police department, led by Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), is deployed to an apartment building with the intent of arresting the crime lord Tama Riyandi (Ray Sahetapy).  It is a derelict building that over the years Tama has populated with some of the worst criminals in the city.  Under the guidance of Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), the elite unit plan to make their way into the building and up to the 15th floor where Tama has ensconced himself along with his enforcer Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhain) and right-hand man Andi (Doni Alamsyah).  The SWAT team makes it as far as the 6th floor before they are spotted and Tama is alerted to their presence.  It all goes to hell from there.

Tama tells the lowlifes, druggies and criminals that reside in his building that they are under siege, granting rent-free sanctuary to anyone who disposes of the police.  While caught under heavy fire in a stairwell, Sergeant Jaka asks the Lieutenant to call for backup, but then realizes that the mission was not sanctioned or ordered by the department.  Wahyu has decided to go after Tama on his own and Jaka knows there will be no one to help the team get out alive and in one piece.

Most of the SWAT team dies in the ambush but Wahyu, Jaka, Bowo (Tegar Satrya), Dagu (Eka Rahmadia) who is badly injured, and the rookie Rama (Iko Uwais) manage to survive.  The five men end up separated, with Rama taking the injured Dagu to the apartment of the only decent man in the building, whom they met with earlier upon initial entry.  The man hides the two cops behind a false wall when the bad guys go looking door to door.  In a harrowing scene, one of the baddies repeatedly shoves a machete into the wall at different points.  When he finally pulls his machete and leaves I realized I was holding my breath the whole time.   Rama leaves Dagu with the man and his ill wife and goes in search of the others, as well as a way out of the building.  The action then kicks up another notch with a showdown between good guys and bad guys looming.

What surprised me most about The Raid: Redemption was that it managed to get such a wide release compared to other films from Southeast Asia.  I was actually able to see the movie at my local theater as opposed to having to take a ferry ride into the city.  Another surprise for me was the level of violence.  I’ve seen my share of movies from Indonesia, but never one this graphically violent.

The story is thin—cops raiding a crime lord’s base of operations that has been untouchable by rival gangs and the police and now they have to fight their way out.  There are also a few plot holes that are sort of explained by the end, but there are also a couple of interesting twists.  For one, Rama has a secret; for another, so does Lieutenant Wayhu.  The real star of The Raid is the fighting style of Silat.  The choreography alone must have taken more time than it did to film the entire movie.  There is a fight scene involving Mad Dog, Andi and Rama that is bloody and brutal as all hell, but it is beautiful to watch.  Their movements are dangerous but graceful.  I didn’t want it to end.  The film’s fight choreography was all done by Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhain (who also worked on Merantau with Uwais and Evans) and it’s worth the price of admission alone.

The acting and directing were very good and Gareth Evans was able to keep the story moving at almost breakneck speed.  The building itself is like an inescapable maze, with Tama, Mad Dog and Andi collectively playing the part of the mythological Minotaur at the center of the deadly labyrinth.  The feat of cinematography involved in the final product was carried out by two talented camera operstors, Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono.   The soundtrack by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park only adds to the tension in The Raid, although it is not the original score when it played at the Toronto International Film Festival.  I absolutely loved this flick and recommend that you see it while it’s still in such a wide release.]

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