Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian
Running Time: 101 minutes
Release: May 18
Welsh director Gareth Evans has captured the attentions of cinema-goers and critics alike with The Raid, a high-octane Indonesian action film made for $1m that delivers violence in spades, but little in terms of tangible rewards.
Set in an unnamed location, it tracks an attempt by a police SWAT team to storm a 30-floor apartment tower under the control of crime lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who has consolidated his power by taking in gangsters as tenants. With these acting as a security buffer, top dog Tama rules the underworld from his personal fortress.
Rama, played by rising Asian star Iko Uwais, is the central figure of the SWAT team. Compassionate and well-intentioned, we are introduced to him at the very beginning of the film, kissing his pregnant wife goodbye on the morning of the raid. With the mission underway, Rama and the rest of the team arrive at the tower, only for a wave of violence to be unleashed upon them. Spotters quickly alert Tama, who summons the building’s inhabitants into battle and watches the carnage unfold on security monitors from his apartment high up.
All manner of weapons are employed – guns, batons, knives, and anything with a jagged edge lying around. Relentless and unflinching, the action scenes are expertly choreographed, and complimented by the fighting skills of Rama and bad guy Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian). Both actors are exponents of the Pencak Silat brand of martial arts and their hand-to-hand combat scenes are highly compelling. The overall impact is further bolstered by a score that hits all the right notes, composed by Joseph Trapanese (Tron: Legacy) and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda.
Yet so little is made known about the chief protagonists that it’s difficult to care if any of them live or die, it might as well be a video game. This inevitably reduces the tension; for a film that is supposedly all about a mission, it seems to distinctly lack one of its own. And the fight scenes are so well choreographed that the relationship between combatants often seems collaborative rather than antagonistic. It becomes a spectacle reminiscent of a dance musical.
Well-crafted, fast-paced and consistently brutal, The Raid has plenty of entertainment value. And with an English-language remake and a sequel in the works there’ll be more to come down the tracks. Best not to try and read too much into the film, though – there’s not a whole lot going on between the lines.