The Raid a.k.a. The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans, 2011)
A thought occured to me in the first, mostly gunfire-heavy half of The Raid: as I was catching my breath for umpteenth time, I realized that this film, in the chaos of its handheld camera and lightning-fast editing, was probably one of the most intensely realistic and affectively accurate portrayal of violence I had ever seen on screen. Relentlessly violent and somewhat murky, The Raid propels you in a high-concept extravaganza of SWAT tactics (briefly) that quickly transition into an impressive display of Silat martial art, as cartridges are emptied and guns are tossed for the more immediate violence of hand-to-hand combat. Unless you’ve been living under a rock at the bottom of the sea for the past few months, you’ve probably heard of this film as an absolute triumph of action filmmaking and while I had many reservations regarding the film’s allegedly confusing style and paper-thin narrative, I am happy to confirm it did not disappoint in the slightest. Once you allow yourself to forgive (as you should given what this films aims to be) the cheese of its underlying plot, its somewhat overbearing score (by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park) and its use of female characters as narrative incentive, there’s nothing to keep you from being entirely enthralled by this hurricane of sweat, tears and blood; physical spectacle in the purest martial arts film tradition. Evans constantly finds ways - whether through camera movement or impressive use of the decrepit environment - to make the fight setpieces (many of which play out like frenetic retellings of the infamous corridor sequence in Oldboy) interesting and unpredictable, the cinematography’s murkiness enhancing the claustrophobia and intensity of the moment rather than impeding understanding. Both Iko Uwas (Rama, the main protagonist) and Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog, immediate villain and killing machine) shine through the sheer physicality of their performance, mesmerizing from start to finish. I expected my mind to turn off and become numb from the excesses of violence, but I instead found myself stimulated at every turn and shocked more than once at the film’s fearless brutality. While it probably wouldn’t fare too well upon second viewing, The Raid is nonetheless an adrenaline rush to be experienced properly at least once, a film so simply effective in concept and execution that it almost becomes allegorical of mankind’s inherent animality: a portrayal of martial artists stuck in a Hobbesian 30-floor tall state of nature, or perhaps a fleeting commentary on Indonesian class warfare (mostly addressed in the film’s final gripping moments) I wouldn’t have an excellent grasp on. Needless to say, The Raid (ignore its dumb wide release subtitle) is wildly recommended, an impressive, excessively violent and chaotic martial arts film I could care about and one that should absolutely be experienced on the big screen.
posted: 3 April 2012 @ 02:26
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