The Raid (Redemption) is an action-cum-martial arts Indonesian film written and directed by Gareth Evans. Staring Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah and Yayan Ruhian. The first and the last also being the fight choreographers. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing some of these names in Hollywood films. In fact, if you check IMDB, you already will.

This may be old news to some of you but with a limited release it’s bound to enjoy a good life on disc. If you are less than enamoured with the genre, The Raid makes no attempt to transcend the genre. The plot is functional and the characters are hardly an example of the internal struggle of the human spirit. External struggle? Most defiantly. In most genres this may be a criticism but Evans gives you just enough to care about the main characters, if you feel so inclined.

The set up does sound like a video game. A police SWAT team is sent into an apartment block in Jakarta considered a “no go” area, controlled as it is, by a criminal gang. The team will have to fight their way up to the top floor to arrest the gang boss. Thankfully, it does not play out like a video game where each level is cleared to move on to the next, it takes a much more organic route to its satisfying end.

Knife to a gun fight

Didn’t ya mama tell you not to bring a knife to a gun fight fool?

“Well, what about the fighting?” I hear you ask. This is a “fighty” film after all. Before we get all up close and personal there are a number of gun battles. Hand-held shakey cam is becoming/has become something of a cliché. When used well however, it can convey frenetic action and can put you, the viewer, in the action. If, like me, you are tried of the over use of shakey cam you’ll be please to hear that The Raid manages to put you in the action. Although the gun combat is somewhat stylised it still feels real and hectic.

This feeling of frenetic realism is carried over to the close combat scenes. After all, when you are out of bullets people don’t kindly stop trying to kill you. Taking the Eastern long shot and the Western close shot, The Raid manges to mitigate the “me next” syndrome that can occur in many Hong Kong style films. There is still a plethora of expendables/grunts/ensigns (delete as appropriate) to take care of but we never see them hanging around waiting for their turn to attack.

For those interested the martial art used is called Silat a grouping together of the indigenous martial arts of the Indonesian Archipelago. Having a little martial training myself I appreciated the direct and functional style. Sure there are some flashy moves and over long fights but if every fight lasted 30 seconds, like they most likely would in the real world, the film would be over rather quickly. Coming back to the video game vibe there is of course the mandatory boss fights. Although rather long they don’t wander into the tedious and hold your attention right to the end.

Some reviewers have been less than kind on the plot and basic emotive writing tools used to define the characters. Personally I think it’s purposeful and well crafted. Most of the people who will be drawn to this film will be interested in the fighting, not the plot and character development. The fighting still needs a container, something more than a couple of set pieces tied together and that’s exactly what it gets. For the genre, the story is more than satisfactory.

4.5/5 (A knee in the face for good measure)