The last time I saw an official game-changer when it came to action films was THE KILLER (1989). Under the direction of John Woo, there was an incredible dance of controlled chaos that surrounded every moment of action. Chow Yun-Phat put everything he had into each pull of the trigger, never desperate, always full of intent. THE RAID: REDEMPTION is a game-changer. It is a visceral, emotional fight down to the last man. It not only lives up to the hype, but it takes the hype, beats the hell out of it and asks “who’s next?!”
They wait just outside of the apartment building like snakes ready to strike. A team of 20 elite officers sent to take down the notorious crime lord Tama Riyandi (Ray Sahetapy), with some better prepared than others to go face-to-face with a brutal hell of bullets and fists. Tamai is an eerily calm killer with a watchful eye on every floor and a group of gangsters ready to carry out his orders to protect the building at all costs… buckle up, Bastards, because this shit is about to get bloody real quick.
The story belongs to highly skilled Officer Rama (Iko Uwais) as he ultimately faces a choice: Fight your way up to kill Tama and rescue whoever you can, or fight your way down to escape. Either way is dangerous, but only one of those ways is battling through hell itself with an onslaught of guns, knives, fists, feet, and more evil henchmen than you could imagine.
Using a rarely seen form of martial arts called Silat, Uwais puts on one of the most impressive displays of skill and speed I have seen on film (you get a sense of how quick he is early in the film as he works a heavy bag). He is a blunt instrument of fury and precision. The first thing I said after the credits was that Uwais was so tough I felt like I had to check for bruises, I wanted to go smile in a mirror and make sure I had all of my teeth in place. THE RAID: REDEMPTION is that tough. It has one epic fight after another and, while battling the lead henchman Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), Uwais and the others execute one of the most incredible fight scenes I have ever seen. These punches hurt, the contact looks real, and it is nearly non-stop for 101 minutes. It only pauses for discussions of engagement and planning.
I have not seen the other two films directed by Gareth Evans so I can’t talk about where he came from versus what he’s done with THE RAID, but what I can tell you is this guy is going to be a force. You don’t make something like this and disappear into safe films. You can’t direct this type of film and then be swallowed by mediocrity. You come back, check for a pulse and get the job done. It is so well shot and planned, so economic in its use of space. Cinematographer Matt Flannery should also get a lot of credit for his compelling work here, he has used this environment and taken advantage of the claustrophobic hallways in ways I didn’t think possible. Impressive considering this, like Gareth Evens, is only his third film. I have been worried about action films for a while, there wasn’t anything to really write about that took the genre by storm and set new rules… until now.
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,
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