Traditionally, a movie needs certain elements to be considered great. Terrific acting. Strong characters. Superb dialogue. Original plotting. The Raid has none of these. Yet, it is most definitely great. Absolutely great. This is an action film in its purest sense, where it delivers raw thrills and none of the frills.
The scenario is as lean and mean as it gets. A team of 20 heavily-armed police have been sent in to take out a crime lord who is operating from the top level of a dilapidated apartment building populated by criminals and thugs. They assault begins smoothly, with a professional entry and the first four floors are taken with ease. But then the team run into a small boy…
Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans made his feature film debut with 2009’s Merantau, a fairly traditional martial arts film with an Ong Bak-esque plot of a young martial arts expert from a village coming to the decadent big city. The Raid follows up in that it, too, is a showcase for the Indonesian martial art silat, but also in that it brings back the bulk of the cast and crew including leading man Iko Uwais.
The team as a whole has clearly progressed and learnt a lot and The Raid is an adrenaline charge that surges from one hectic fight sequence to the next. The fights are aggressive, brutal and rapid. Guns blaze, machetes swing and feet and fists pummel all and sundry. Bodies are hurled against walls, thrown out of windows and impaled on broken doors. All with dazzling speed and precision.
The Raid is shot hand-held in HD, but unlike so many Hollywood ‘shaky cam’ blockbusters, the geography of every fight remains clear and easy to follow. This is due to some excellent camera choices, such as shooting wide and with a liberal sprinkling of overhead shots to keep the placement of the various protagonists plain at all times. This is not to say the camerawork is boring – far from it. When an invading police officer jumps through a hole in the floor to a thug-infested flat below, the camera follows right along after him in a clever shot involving a harness and two camera operators.
It may happily invoke just about every action cliche there is in its story (even the pregnant girlfriend waiting at home gets a nod), but the fighting is fresh and fantastic. The odd battle may go on a bit long, but that is a miniscule criticism when leveled against the phenomenal excitement and athleticism packed into The Raid. Don’t miss it.
The main extra on board is a six-part behind-the-scenes doco that covers everything from the exhaustive planning and rehearsal process through production and post. It is rapid-fire, but covers a lot of bases. We see how the sets were built, how the actors were sent to boot camp, the extensive fight choreography and even how the production was unable to afford a real riot van, so they had to customise an old truck…which frequently had to be push started.
Also present is the Q&A session from the film’s premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and a variety of trailers, both for The Raid and other recent martial arts films.