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August 10, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

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Serbuan maut
Gareth Evans - 2011
Sony Classics Region 1 DVD

What will probably be the most memorable quote in this film comes from a short, wiry guy with the nickname of Mad Dog, "Pulling a trigger is like ordering a takeout." Not that there isn't a lot of shooting in The Raid: Redemption, in fact there is a lot. And some of it is point blank, gun barrel against a guy's head. The above quote precedes Mad Dog taking on a cop in a hand to hand martial arts duel.

The story itself is relatively simple. A Jakarta based SWAT team goes to a crumbling high rise that's the base for a local crime boss. Part of their justification is that it is known that a drug lab is in the building. What makes this task more of a challenge is that many of the high rise residents are also gang members. It's also explained later why the members of the SWAT team are for the most part an untested bunch. The crime boss, Tama, is vicious enough to have no problem personally executing his enemies. His trusted lieutenants are the previously mentioned Mad Dog, and the more organizationally inclined Andi. Even though the SWAT team works its way up through the high rise, each floor might be said to correspond with a deeper level of Hell.

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What is to be admired about The Raid: Redemption is the complexity of fight scenes. These scenes use a variety of different martial arts styles. In addition to guns, the weaponry gets more personal with machetes and knives. Evans did some of the action choreography, as well as edited the film. To describe what happens on screen as fast and furious is probably a cliche but anyone with a modicum of knowledge on how movies are actually made should be impressed by how the very fast shots have been assembled to create, for the most part, seamless action sequences with very convincing looking stunts and body movement.

This is a man's man's man's world, and the three women who briefly appear are wives left in bed, one sick, one pregnant. There are a few brief shots of the streets of Jakarta, but most of the film takes place in this one building. There's already an English language remake in the writing stage which will probably tone down much of the violence, but hopefully encourage subtitle adverse viewers to watch Evan's original film.

That The Raid: Redemption is the first Indonesian film to get picked up by a major U.S. distributor is a worthy breakthrough. There is some irony that it's also the work of a Welshman. Not to take anything away from Gareth Evans, who has made a small scale international hit with his second dramatic feature, but ideally his film would inspire further interest in Indonesian cinema. Considering the state of seeing Asian cinema in the U.S., I have no reason to be optimistic, but then again, a couple of action movies from Vietnam have made their way stateside. In the meantime, Evans has left his movie with enough of an open ending to look forward to his sequel. Considering what was accomplished with the limited resources he had available, Evans has set the bar quite high for a rematch.

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Posted by peter at August 10, 2012 08:23 AM