The Raid: Redemption

Do you love non-stop, hair-raising martial-art fights and stunts ? Then ‘The Raid‘ will be an unforgettable movie experience for you. Its very rare these days to find even a decent quality, old-fashioned, hand-to-hand combat rich movies, but this little Indonesian flick will remind you what you have been missing in this genre.

The plot is simple. A small group of rookie combat team try to capture a notorious crime lord by breaking in to his impenetrable fortress of a building in which he had given residence to the worst, brutal and the vilest creatures of the city – murders, rapists and pure, uncut psychopaths. Within moments of entering the building, they are detected and, as they say, everything goes haywire. Enormously outgunned and outnumbered the security forces get decimated, except for a few, and the rest of the story deals with the absolute mayhem through which they must find a way out of that hellhole.

In the beginning, things are under control. There is a sense of urgency in the camera work and as a viewer one could feel the anticipation to something dramatic build up. But nothing really prepares you to what is about to follow. The building itself is deceptively unassuming of the horror it houses. From the outside its just rectangular block of concrete with bleak walls and rain damaged exterior. On the inside though, as we learn later, death itself becomes an inviting prospect. And our hero, a rookie soldier, must use every bit of his training, inner strength and the sheer will to live to get himself and his fellow men out of this pit in hell.

After the initial gun fight, the story turns into a violent cat and mouse game, where every machete wielding psycho in the building is out to get our protagonists. The main character, Rama, is the center piece for majority of the story, but its a little hard to see him entirely because his hands move too fast to follow. With extremely swift and lethal force he takes down one thug after another as he makes his way through the dilapidated rooms and claustrophobic hallways. It was like watching vintage Jackie Chan of the 70’s, without the humor. Something to note hear is how natural the fight scenes were. Although each move must have been choreographed down to the tiny detail, the fist fights were absolutely realistic, to the point that there were more than a few audible gasps from the audience when a particular punch or searing blade landed on its target.

That reminds me of the gore and blood shed in this movie. It is one thing to see blood spurting off a guy when shot or maimed, but to see it happen every few minutes, involving different body parts sure sends an uneasy chill down one’s spine. We know the characters inside the building are inhuman monsters but we don’t realize what they are capable of until we see them running towards you with nothing but murderous terror in their eyes. And then there is the Mad Dog.

As often the case in these types of movies, the villain has one special henchman who is above all of the villains staff when it comes to being a total lunatic psycho. In this movie, that henchman is the, aptly named, Mad Dog. He seems menacing in the beginning, but his full repertoire does not reveal itself until his fight with Jaka, the veteran captain of the security forces. Mad Dog has Jaka at gunpoint, but calmly puts it away and starts a fist fight which lasts for a full 5 minutes. Needless to say Jaka gets killed, but not before he wishes he had been shot instead if only to not endure the Mad Dog’s brutal wrath. After that fight, I honestly thought our hero could never escape this building, not at least while Mad Dog is still alive.

The minor, but important plot twist plays a role in the eventual encounter between Rama and Mad Dog. By the time they square off, you are just about saturated for eye-popping stunts, but then, like many sections in the movie, you just end up slack jawed in amazement when its over. I can honestly say that it was one of the best hand to hand fight scenes I have ever scene in a movie. The men fight with everything they have got, and young Rama, facing certain death, puts in an incredible fight of his life. They trade small advantages back and forth, and this goes on and on for minutes on end until they look like they might die from exhaustion. I would have paid the entire ticket price just for this fight scene alone.

There are certain bits in the end about corruption, family and loyalty, but none of these things linger in your mind when you leave the theater. All you can remember brutality, violence and the masterful exhibition of martial arts.

Those are lot of words. Most of my movie reviews tend to be short ones, but this is certainly longer than any that I have posted here. This is one of the rare movies that, in the age of computer generated superheroes and robots, reminds you what a true action flick can be.  I was truly amazed by the craft and performance delivered through this movie and I can’t wait to see it again on Netflix. That is very high praise for an low budget Indonesian movie with English subtitles.

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