Uwais look on the bright side of life.
The Raid (2011)
It can’t be just me that’s noticed a severe lack of modern chop-socky action of late. It just can’t. What’s happened? Tony Jaa in Ong-Bak is the last significant martial arts sensation I can think of- and he unfortunately drove that series into the ground, making a third film so shitty that he joined a monastery and became a monk for several years. Seriously – look it up. Anyway, whilst I don’t think The Raid‘s Iko Uwais will become a household name, him and his franchise are doing a lot to fill that violent urge within us all to see badasses punch and kick people in the throat.
So, the plot. Iko Uwais plays Rama, a rookie cop is sent as part of a SWAT team to clear out a towerblock in Jakarta’s slums, run by crime lord Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy) and take the big bad down. Trouble is, there are 30 odd floors of bad dudes between the gun pigs and Tama and the residents inbetween aren’t fans of bacon. Unable to leave, the cops have to fight their way to the top. Cue bloody mayhem. The Raid is as stripped down as you can get. It has the very basics of a story in place, but you’re not going to get anything particularly well-written or anything willing to step outside of various action clichés. Whilst the story isn’t worth writing home about, that’s not to say it’s to be dismissed completely. It’s pretty efficient at setting up who is who and what their motivations are, a feat to be commended in an age where there are blockbusters films being released that can’t manage that in their total runtimes. There are some nice moments here and there and it’s certainly not bad. The plot is totally not the point though. It’s a framework on which to hang oodles of hyper-violence. It’s very much like a video game and that’s not a negative thing. Iko Uwais is such a find for Gareth Evans. The man not only kicks an unholy amount of arse, but he’s a decent actor too. I really like Joe Taslim as the gruff Jaka and especially love the unhinged Mad Dog, played by Yayan Ruhian.
Before I get into the boring bit of describing the fighting, let me say a few things. The film has a great control of its atmosphere. It’s a grim film and there’s an oppressive sense of tension as Rama and the cops start moving through the building. It really weighs heavy on you. The other thing I really like about the film is its sense of geography. What the balls do I mean by that? Well, the film gives us a clear idea of where our heroes and villains are at all times. We see the SWAT team ascend the floors. We know so-and-so’s apartment is on the 7th floor. We know Tama is at the very top of the complex. It all adds to the immersion and sells the fact this is a real place. Take a look at the modern daddy of the “trapped in a place” films, Die Hard. Next time you watch that film, take note of the surprising amount of time the film dedicates to telling us just where McClane is and where he needs to go next. Anyway. It’s a good thing what this film done. End of point. Also, it’s interesting to note that the film has two soundtracks. I’ve only heard the American one, done by composer Joseph Trapanese (who worked on Tron: Legacy‘s brilliant Daft Punk soundtrack and M83’s equally good Oblivion soundtrack) and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda (without a sense of confidence /I’m convinced that there’s just too much pressure to take), but I rate it highly. Really adds to the off-kilter feel of the film.
So, the all-important action. It’s fucking awesome and some of the best fight choreography I’ve ever seen. It’s fast, brutal and visceral. I really recommend watching The Raid with a group of similarly-minded people. Like all the best martial arts films, you’ll be laughing with sheer glee one minute and wincing, but still smiling, the next. It’s super violent stuff, no doubt about it, but it’s done with such skill and precision it’s like watching the world’s most hardcore ballet with machetes and broken bones. It’s a massive showcase for the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat and by Christ, is it cool. I know calling something “awesome” and “cool” is hardly the best criticism (although it’s never stopped me), but there’s not much else to say about fight scenes. You don’t calmly and intellectually dissect them. You fuckin’ feel them in your core, brother! The Raid is all about action sequences and it does them extraordinarily well. The first time I saw the film, I walked out with a mile-wide smile and and urge to punch and kick everything and everybody in sight. That’s exactly what a good martial arts film should do.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out The Raid. It’s light on story but heavy on punches. It’s also one of my favourite action films ever. Plus, the sequel’s out.