The Raid: Redemption, the newest film from writer/director Gareth Evans, isn’t so much an action movie as it is an action experience. Featuring some of the best fight scenes ever put to film, nearly every minute is a pulse pounding, hair raising, piece of awesome.
Set in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, the story begins as an elite 20-man SWAT team orchestrates a raid on a 30 floor apartment building. Inside, on the 15th floor, is the man they are going after: a ruthless kingpin and drug lord (Ray Sahetapy) who lords over his tenants, who themselves are some of the most dangerous criminals in the city. While the mission starts off smoothly, when everything goes haywire it’s up to a young cop, Rama (Iko Uwais), to not only survive, but to save as many of his fellow officers as he can.
The actors in this film can simply do things that our actors are not capable of doing. Watching Uwais during a fight scene causes your jaw to unintentionally gape, but even more impressively, just about every other actor is equally talented. Yayan Ruhian and Doni Alamsyah, who play two of the film’s principal bad guys, can do things previously thought incapable with the human body. Not only that, but the characters can sell pain just as well as they sell a punch to the neck. By the end of each fight sequence you feel just as brutalized as the characters in the movie and it’s an incredible sensation.
As skilled as the actors are, what ultimately sells it is Gareth Evans’ brilliant direction during the combat scenes. Rather than pull up so tight that you can’t understand what’s going on or quick cut so that you can’t put movements and events in sequence, Evans actually lets the audience watch the amazing detail of each blow. As a result of the steady camerawork, the audience actually feels like they are a part of the action and the adrenaline goes soaring.
The Raid’s greatest strength contributes to its one problem. Because of the endless energy found in all of the fight sequences, the scenes where people are just walking or talking to each other feel exponentially slowed down. It’s literally a matter of body chemistry, as your heart begins to beat so fast that any kind of immediate dropoff is going to affect you emotionally. It’s no fault to the story, which is gripping and has some solid twists and turns, but there simply is nothing in the film that can outshine the sight of a man leaping backwards over a broken door frame and jamming a piece of wood through a criminal’s neck. It actually says something significant about the quality of the action, as few other movies could get away with this balance. It’s simply that good.
At some point while watching The Raid: Redemption you will likely have a moment where you think to yourself, “How can that man have his head be slammed against the wall that many times and keep standing up?” but it doesn’t matter. Evans’ film plays fast and loose with physics and biology and the end result is a true thrill ride and one hell of an experience.