Bad movies are much easier to review than good movies. When it comes to bad movies, there’s so much more to write about. A problem arises when all you really want to say is, “You have to see this film. Like right now.” There are only so many ways you can write, “Jaw dropping”, “Spectacular” and “You need this movie in your life”. It doesn’t help of course when there’s next to no plot to speak of, and that’s really not a criticism by the way. The only downside to films like Ong Bak and The Warrior King is that the plot - what little plot there is - gets in the way of the really good stuff. Films like Merantau don’t find their feet until act two; The Raid on the other hand, gives you five minutes to get comfortable.
In 2009, Welsh director Gareth Evans and martial artist-turned-actor Iko Uwais introduced a worldwide audience to the martial arts style of pencak silat. Merantau was born, and with it, a rising star capable of giving Tony Jaa a run for his money. It was only a matter of time before they knocked down some walls with The Raid, an intense action movie about a SWAT team's attempt to ‘quietly’ extract a powerful drug lord from an apartment block filled with dangerous criminals. That pretty much describes the entire plot of the movie. As you might expect, the SWAT team's cover is blown, and after somebody on the inside hits the panic button, the ill-advised mission falls foul of relentless gun battles, extreme ass kicking and glistening knife fights. If you’re looking for wall-to-wall action this month, you’re unlikely to find a more literal definition.
You know your spending time in the company of a serious bad ass when, at the end of the first act, he lays down his weapon and says, “Screw this, lets kick the crap out of each other instead”. From this point forward The Raid is a master class in martial arts filmmaking. As good as Uwais is , and he is undeniably awesome in this, the real star of the show is stunt coordinator Yayan Ruhian, who takes on the role of chief bad ass Mad Dog. If you thought Iko’s rookie cop was a force to be reckoned with, wait until you get a load of this pint sized wonder. A man who compares killing a person with a gun rather than his hands to getting a takeaway. At no point will you believe that this man couldn’t take on the world and win, such is the ferociousness of Indonesia’s feistiest mutt. It’s an awe-inspiring spectacle from start to finish, an exercise in unadulterated whoop-ass that must be seen to be believed.
Evans has been sharpening his tools for the last few years and its evident in every frame of The Raid. A blistering stairwell shoot out sets the tone early on, and it’s hypnotising stuff, despite a nagging concern that Evans might be pulling his punches. Those fears are laid to rest when Rama (Uwais) goes on the rampage with his trusty truncheon. Throats are slit, limbs are severed and fridges are blown out of the window. The Raid takes ultra-violence to the next level and it's a beautiful thing. Character development and storyline are kicked to the dirt as the bar is raised into the stratosphere, but if you’re looking for motivation, plot twists and hooks, there’s just about enough to keep you invested on an emotional level – but only just. The rest of the film is devoted to bone crushing fight sequences and breathtaking stunt work that never gets old.
It would be easy to criticise The Raid for being a one trick pony, but there’s little chance of you caring as the film races towards its mesmerising – and brutal – conclusion. The Raid 2 is currently in production and Evans has said that the sequel is the film he wanted to make in the first place. If The Raid was his back up plan, it’s hard to imagine what he has in store for us next time out. But we’ll certainly be there. You, me and the fridge. AW