Film review: The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption
Serbuan Maut
Pt. Merantau Films, XYZ Films, Celluloid Nightmares

STARRING Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Ray Sahetapy, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Satrya
WRITTEN BY Gareth Evans
PRODUCED BY Ario Sagantoro
DIRECTED BY Gareth Evans

SHOT BY Matt Flannery
EDITED BY Gareth Evans
MUSIC BY Aria Prayogi, Fajar Yuskemal, Mike Shinoda, Joseph Trapanese
DISTRIBUTED BY Celluloid Nightmares, Sony Pictures Classics

Screened 2012-02-21

The Raid has met with some published critical acclaim thanks largely to the Toronto International Film Festival – but you’re either interested in the subject matter or you’re not. I seem to recall the last time I made an effort to watch Asian men be unstoppable with martial arts, I was about 21 and was wondering why I had bothered to purchase Enter the Dragon – the first time such thoughts had entered my mind. The film has happily sat on my shelf, untouched, since then. I would’ve sold it but found the profit would not be justified against the time spent. If anybody out there is listening and wants my copy, let me know and I’ll mail it to you! For free! I’d be happy to see it put to good use. So I’m sure that The Raid is an impressive martial arts film against the current standard, but for this viewer there was simply nothing to be seen, nothing to hold my interest – except my notepad in front of me, where most of this review was distractingly penned… I had to occupy my attention somehow or I would’ve become very depressed, after all. I felt better afterward.

So, here we are. A SWAT team arrives at a large slum apartment complex to enter and capture an apparent kingpin drug lord, HQed there. The complex is thought to have been impenetrable, even by the police – this is because it is populated by about one thousand agile young machete-wielding kung-fu supermen, who still incredibly fail to survive more than a few seconds when they meet our “protagonist” (somehow having a pregnant wife places us on his side). He’s just another SWAT team member, but he survives considerably longer than every single other team member, who are exterminated as rapidly as the fodder who careen down the same blank apt complex hallways at our hero. His survival may have something to do with his absolute and immediate command of any environment he enters, and any useful prop, or prop whose destruction creates a new prop. Our hero, btw, is Iko Uwais, a 29 year old silat expert who is quickly gaining international notoriety for his impressive physical prowess. Despite my mounting boredom with fanciful combat choreography, the film manages to be equally dulling when the action halts and we’re left with a story composed not by the writers of video games, but the fans of those writers. Such a film has the potential to be, maybe should be, fun. But it is less than fun, it takes itself quite seriously and is much more concerned with appearing cool. No humor to be found here. And when the end finally comes it’s somehow an anticlimax.

What was most disturbing to witness was the profusion of ultra-violence and its sale as sex. We, by the way, have CGI technology to thank for regular violence’s graduation to bombarding ultra-violence, an infinitely more capricious madness in which it is so much simpler to speedily knife every viewable part of the human body (there are enough warm bodies on which to practice), to add those bullet wounds in post-production so even less attention need be paid during the moments when those guns are pointed and fired (I would estimate the shell casings one could find on the complex floor during the events of this film would top 10,000). Uwais is a super soldier who, in melee mode, is attacked one man at a time, murdering the interchangable non-player-characters with the efficiency and omniscient foresight of Jason Bourne. I swear, the film is little more than a testing ground for murder variety, and for scenes of endless hand-to-hand combat where no hit makes an impression unless it is “impressive.” Welsh director Gareth Huw Evans clearly is largely inspired by violent video games, and I would’ve rather played The Raid than have experienced it. The film is best viewed by non-thinking, non-feeling, primarily youthful males – admission should require proof of Xbox purchase. Apropos, I can see it being best utilized as a tool of further indoctrination for military infantry, if one were so soulless. I, at least, was indoctrinated further into this belief: every Asian can fight and black people have rhythm.

written by David Ashley