Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Cast: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian, Doni Alamsyah
The Buzz: Generating festival accolades aplenty (Dublin Film Critics Circle Best Film prize and Audience Award at the recent Jameson Dublin International Film Festival), this Indonesian martial arts flick has gained an unlikely cult following and is a must see for action fans.
The Story: Deep in the slums of Jakarta, an elite 20-man SWAT team is tasked with raiding a derelict apartment run by the notorious drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy). 30 floors-high, it has become a safe house for the world's most dangerous killers and gangsters.
While their mission begins smoothly, everything soon descends into chaos when a chance encounter with a spotter blows the unit’s cover and news of their assault reaches the drug lord. Stranded with no way out, it is up to rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) to not only survive, but also save as many of his fellow officers as he can.
inSing thinks: Pulse pounding, jaw gaping, skull smashing thrill ride, there is simply not enough superlatives to describe the sheer brutality and action artistry of ‘The Raid: Redemption'.
Forget the remote notion of a plot, script or comprehensible back-story; clearly conversations and chitchats weren’t a selling point.
It is boldly and unabashedly an action orgy, a tribute and throwback of sorts by Welsh director Gareth Evans to the Hong Kong classics of John Woo and the Hollywood blockbuster heroes of old (think Bruce Willis in ‘Die Hard’).
The violence is intense and almost never lets up, flowing from one mega fight sequence to another in ruthless fashion. The choreography is excellent and very well conceived, like a brutal ballet amidst an adrenaline thumping score thanks to Joseph Trapanese and Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda.
We can also overlook the usual action movie clichés (e.g. villains seem to be superhuman, people climbing up to the fifteenth storey with no effort at all, etc). The film is anchored in realism. Every broken bone and every skewered neck can be easily felt and imagined.
Watch out for Tama’s henchman, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), who lives up to his insane name and JUST WILL NOT DIE! At the end of a climatic and bloody showdown, the camera lingers on him long enough that you half-expect him to get up and continue the fight. Nice one, Evans.
Iko Uwais (who plays lead protagonist Rama) is a star in the making. Comparisons to ‘Ong Bak''s Tony Jaa is of course expected but his impressive mastery of Pencak Silat is a sight to behold in itself.
Like how Jaa was the poster boy for Muay Thai, the success of ‘The Raid: Redemption’ will ultimately expose international audiences to this Indonesian martial arts discipline, and deservedly so.
Iko Uwais fight demonstration
Overall, the film’s back-to-basics approach is ironically the shot in the arm that this genre need, long antagonized for being all fluff in recent years.
It is therefore no wonder that ‘The Raid: Redemption’ has garnered critical acclaim around the international festival circuit, winning the Midnight Madness People’s Choice Award at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and official selection for the SXSW Film Festival.
With talks of an American remake and two sequels in the works, this is the magnificent story of a little Indonesian film that kicked major ass. Flying the Southeast Asian flag high, this instant action masterpiece will be talked about for a long, long time.