The Raid: Redemption was a unique experience for me.
I am not one to often champion action films. Even the martial arts genre, unless done perfectly so, hardly gets much out of me.
But Gareth Evans’ The Raid, a film about a SWAT team infiltrating a crime lord’s 15-story apartment complex of chaos, had moments that left me speechless. Let me tell you how it did that.
With the action genre being as oversatured as it is in all markets of cinema, a successful one has to throw something intriguing at its audience. In the case of The Raid, it’s an innovative scenario that presents the audience, and the SWAT team, with a daunting task. Clear out 15 stories of madmen, all who are conveniently adept at handling a gun or using their fists, only to reach king madman controlling the chaos from the top floor.
This concept alone, in its video game-like gauntlet challenge being issued to a SWAT team, is enough to let an action film earn some interest from those who often find themselves outside the realm of action film love. Rather than set us on a journey of horizontal narrative movement, we’re going vertical. We’re inside one building for the entire duration of the film, rather than jetting from country to country and getting ourselves lost in a muddied narrative that lends nothing to the film’s meat and potatoes.
With The Raid‘s ultra interesting concept in place, Evans must also execute. He does, and then some. Any bad action film will have fight scenes that are not discernible to its audience. An overpowering and more than enough dose of shaking and rocking camera movements often distorts the audience’s view of the action. Think of the audaciously annoying fight scenes in the Bourne series, for example.
Instead, Evans maintains composure in his filming of The Raid‘s excellent fight scenes. That’s not to say there isn’t any innovation with the way Evans looks at fight scenes. It is to say that all of the fight scenes won’t leave you in a dizzying state and won’t induce any nausea. That alone, for me, can kill my enjoyment of certain films. It ruined the opening sequence of Quantum of Solace. Off topic, I know, but that was disgusting.
What will stay most with you after viewing this violent, brutal and punishing film are the well-staged and choreographed fight scenes. These are all things of beauty. The violence is in your face, tough and realistic. The fight scenes all carry a certain powerful feel to them. In some films, I find myself yawning at the repetitive fight scenes, questioning myself how long I can possibly sit through another uninteresting battle between two or more people. In The Raid, I found myself excited at the fact that the bare knuckles and booted feet would be flying. It was inspiring and the film’s adrenaline sorta seeps through the screen and into your veins. I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel like kicking some ass after watching this one.
The beauty of the fights and the anticipation of them happening is Evans’ greatest achievement in The Raid and he directs the film’s narrative like he knows it. The film has a minor back story of corruption and set ups, as well as some character interest with a likable squad captain and a rookie cop who absolutely can pound some skulls in, that The Raid is pushed into an even more interesting area of enjoyment. It isn’t a simply mindless torrential downpour of bloody fights and gun shootouts. It has enough behind it to make you care about the film’s outcome, rather than just enjoy the well-done action and fights.
When all is said and done, The Raid is one of the most satisfying, interesting and best action films in decades. It invokes a John Woo attitude and style, but digs up most of its inspiration from American and foreign grindhouse films in its no-holds-barred approach and shocking violence. There are countless moments that literally left my mouth open thanks to the film’s brutal approach at combining fighting with audio, visual and technical prowess. Nothing is taken for granted in The Raid. Every character and moment is made useful in some satisfying, impressive way. Evans, who isn’t exactly new to directing, is on his way to big things if he can stay friendly with his choreograph team. I hope he does.