I went to see The Raid (changed to The Raid: Redemption for whatever reason) at a cineplex on Sunday with my wife and a cousin of ours. My wife had a choice between seeing this movie and accompanying our kids and their cousin, who were watching The Lorax in the next studio. She said she wanted to see a ‘grownup film’ (I’m sure she’d have preferred The Woman in Black) so there we were. The movie is rated R, I was aware of that, but what I didn’t know was that it was a blood porn—nope, not the kind of the so-called gore porn with hot sweaty babes in sweat-drenched tank tops running around jiggling their magumbos and screaming at top of their lungs before getting their throat slit or something, which is kind of a good thing ‘cause those screams can really get to you after two or three seconds. The Raid is a blessed adult entertainment filled with frame after frame after frame of glorious blood and spittle flying and dripping, sweat running profusely, bullets piercing just about any visible body parts and bodies slammed against the walls, tables, chairs, through windows, and other furniture the filmmakers could get their hands on.
The plot, which is as utterly ridiculous as any public officials’ campaign promises, failed to make me dislike this movie: It is a martial-arts action movie with martial arts and actions bumped up a notch higher than any action movies I have seen in the last, oh IDK, a more than a decade, mayhap (CMIIW, but there has not been an action movie in terms of rawness, like John Woo’s Bullet in the Head, The Killer, Hard Boiled or A Better Tomorrow II, or Ringo Lam’s Full Contact and Prison on Fire, just to name a few, and some crazy kickass action flicks, only Luc Besson or Robert Rodriguez of old could direct or produce). The acting of some of the cast made me cringe in my seat once or twice, especially knowing some of the them are regulars in Indonesian drama series, whose plot, dialogs, settings, acting—heck, everything—are more ridiculous than any politicians’ campaign materials.
The very simple premise of the movie—a SWAT team infiltrating a tenement owned by a sadistic crime lord to bring the said crime lord to justice gone awry due to some reasons or others which I cannot exactly grasp (All I know is that some corrupt officials are involved.)—paves the way to a long barrage of shot-em-up actions that starts before you can even pronounce the lead actor’s name. Aparently, just about everyone living in this building is working for Tama, the crime lord, so the members of the SWAT team don’t find it even slightly morally questionable to blow a kid’s head (Heck, them darned kids screamed out their presence and hit the frickin’ alarm, for crying out loud). And, from the moment the first bullet flies, it’s an all out carnage of blood and scream and, well, more blood, until the last bullet shell tinkling onto the floor.
What follows is wave after wave of beautifully choreographed fights that run from seconds to close to seven minutes. The movie, I’m sure, is inspired by the likes of Die Hard and many of its progeny, and many of the survival horror video games: People running or shuffling along the corridors with their bloodied hands on the walls leaving trails of blood and maniac killers (or creatures) following close behind with machetes in hands.
Iwo Kuwais, the lead actor, and Yayan Ruhaiyan, who plays the crazy, scary yet perversely lovable right hand man of Tama’s, Mad Dog, are both genuine article Pencak Silat martial artists (Indonesian original traditional martial arts with tens of styles and branches which I’m still trying hard to make my kids get interested in—hey, they can learn Karate, Tae Kwon do, even Ninjutsu, but for them to learn Pencak Silat is pretty much obligatory in my opinion), and they choreographed the intricate fight scenes in The Raid. They also did their own stunts so what we have here are my two new action movie stars. Okay, so Iwo may lack the commanding presence of, say, Jet Lee, Tony Jaa, or Dwayne Johnson, but damn if the guy doesn’t know his craft. Those of you who have seen and who enjoy Iwo Kuwais and the director, Gareth Evans’s first collaboration, a martial arts actioner, Merantau (2009), will fall in love all over again with this dynamic duo. I know I do.
The fights are visceral, ridiculously painful to watch and really bloody, yet with balletic precision which is just damned enjoyable for those who are into martial arts free from today’s Hong Kong and Hollywood heavily wired actions. Thinks Thailand’s Tony Jaa’s best action films and multiply that by at least three.
All the cast and crew involved in the production must share mutual love in what they do, especially the cast and the stunt people, waking up everyday and going the set knowing they may suffer from broken bones before lunch break, but the result is simply fabulous.
The cinematographer, Matt Flannery, has done a terrific job, adopting those jerky camera moves ala Jason Bourne series only for the dialog, but opting wide angle and steady camera shots for action scenes, so that all that carnage is splendidly clear to see and you know when to close your eyes if you can’t stomach anymore of the violence actions. And the sound…man, (SPOILER ALERT!) when Mad Dog was torturing Jaka in a room, the sound of his fist hitting Jaka’s body is muffled with the camera representing Iwo’s character, Rama, running towards the room, but as the camera moves into the torture chamber the sound of the fist against Jaka’s torso just exploding is really out there. And the following dance these three people (Rama and Jaka against Mad Dog) do in that room may be one of the best fight sequences in movie history.
So, The Raid with all its flaws, notably the plot, story and some of the acting of, I regret to say, the senior actors in the movie thanks of years of experience they harvest playing Indonesian television dramas is one that pleasantly surprises me and one that I want to see more Indonesian film makers pour their blood, sweat and tears for making them.
- You may have a feeling that I truly hate Indonesian soap operas. Well.
- The audience cheered and clapped hands at the end of the Jaka-Rama-Mad Dog threesome. I didn’t. I was busy grabbing popcorn.
- Tama when grinning evilly close to the end of the movie with a little white powder on the face and blood red lipsticks could easily become the demoniac portrait of The Joker . Hot!