Is it sad that the only times I see subtitled films in the theater anymore are when 1) Will Ferrell decides to randomly make a Spanish language film, or 2) an Asian country releases a badass martial arts film?
I’d say most Americans uncultured, but… well, yeah we are kind of uncultured… On that note… awesome! I see another Storage Wars marathon is on this week! Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup. (or for you Storage Wars: Texas fans – “Bring it!” [dies a little inside for knowing these things])
Whoa, paragraph two might be a little early to go off track with this review… focus! OK, now don’t let the awful name fool you, The Raid: Redemption is a high quality action film. For violence/fighting junkies, it should do a fine job satisfying your hunger for non-shaky cam action scenes. You see, I used the word ‘hunger’ there because of a certain other movie that used too much shaky cam. I like to be very direct in revealing my stupid puns.
What this film is, if you don’t know about it, is an Indonesian martial arts film (but directed by a Welsh guy), about an elite squad (different movie!) of police officers who are raiding (hence the title) a fifteen story apartment building that’s riddled with criminals (parenthesis!). One of the police officers is especially awesome at beating people up, not coincidentally he was also the most human and compassionate, and the film did a decent job making me care about this guy.
There is story outside of just the raid operation, but it’s fairly simple, and doesn’t take up much screen time. It does, however, keep things alive where it could have gone stale. So just having short, simple story elements worked to this film’s advantage overall.
The fighting is well choreographed. There are a lot of guns in this film if that means anything (positive or negative) to you, so people get shot a bunch, in addition to getting roundhoused to death. There is no shaky cam, and it’s such a welcome change of pace to see an action film every now and then where the camera is resting in one place, and you can see everything that’s actually happening. What’s the point of blocking a great action scene if it just looks like a blur? The Raid had plenty of great fights, and several distinguishable characters with great fight personalities.
But martial arts films usually try and one up the other with something truly creative involved, and that’s where The Raid kind of faltered. It’s a great concept, but in the end it wasn’t really anything I haven’t seen before, in terms of the fighting/action. I love watching martial arts films, but I in no way consider myself an expert on the subject, but this just lacked a… I don’t know what to call it… a “holy shit” factor… I look at the stuff Tony Jaa did in Ong Bak and The Protector, with his multi-level one-take fight scenes, and breaking 100 different guys’ bones in a single fight, and The Raid didn’t do anything like that.
However, The Raid knocked anything Tony Jaa has done out of the park in terms of pacing and editing (and maybe also cinematography). The Raid had near perfect pacing. Jaa movies are bogged down with awful storytelling in between epic fights. The Raid is almost nonstop action throughout. And when there isn’t action, there’s tension. Not just visual tension, but a great sound design with audible tension. Everything about the structure of The Raid is better than most non-Jet Li martial arts films I’ve seen. Also, it had a very high quality music score for what it was, since I didn’t mention it yet.
So while this film may not have been groundbreaking in my eyes, it is extremely well executed in nearly every way. And that counts for something. I would recommend it to any martial arts fan, or any R-rated action movie fan. I think its been in limited release for a month now, so you should check it out in theaters while you still can!
8.5 out of 10