Dear The Raid: Redemption,
Were it not for certain professional and ethical concerns, I would probably write the words “hell yes” all in caps with a few exclamation points and call this review finished. Honestly, it is a difficult task to tell someone, articulately, why a movie such as yourself is worthwhile. So let me try, but if I devolve into a series of grunts and violent hand motions, you’ll have to forgive me.
Let’s just get your plot out of the way quickly – sort of like you do. Rama is a rookie cop who is moral, well-trained, and in love with his pregnant wife. How do we know this? Because he wakes up, trains rigorously, dresses like in his cop uniform, and then kisses his pregnant wife goodbye. He has reason to kiss his wife with a little more tenderness on this particular morning; he is about to go on a raid of a tenement block controlled by a ruthless criminal, populated by criminals, druggies, thugs, and killers. How do we know this? Because he is told so on the way to the building during one of those oh-so-typical briefing scenes that always seems to take place on the way to the objective, rather than somewhere more sensible.
Ok, yea, it’s all very cliche and simplistic, but who cares? You are an action film. No, let me try that again. You are an ACTION FILM.
Sorry, I almost lost it there.
Once everything goes to hell and the mission becomes hopelessly lost – as these missions are want to do – you become something akin to Black Hawk Down but with fists and machetes instead of guns. Even though there are guns. Lots of guns. It’s a carnival of violence and the only rule is that there are no rules.
Sorry. It almost happened again.
Anyway, some more plot happens and things come to a resolution of a sort, but the real reason to seek you out is your action. The star here, of course, is pentjak silat, the martial arts form of which everyone in your universe is a master. As far as I can tell, this is a form of combat that involves using every single inch of your own body as a kind of human wrecking ball and hoping that the other guy breaks before you do. And boy, does it make for some intense fight scenes. You contain more scenes of brutal, intense violence than three normal action films. Yet the joy here is in watching the absolute, stark, blistering artistry of some people who really know how to hurt each other.
You are the kind of movie that thrives on the premise that there will never be a moment that cannot be suddenly turned into an action scene. Every person is a fighter, every object is a weapon. You action choreographer is actually one of your main characters, which speaks both to your commitment to story and your commitment to action.
I’m not going to pretend you are the revelation of action cinema some claim. I’m hard pressed to say why you rise above the usual action rabble. Intensity, sure. Frequency, yea. Exotic location? Well… not so much. For all the noise about you being a foreign film, I’ve found that in movies one run down tenement block looks like all the others. What really sets you apart is the care, attention, and sheer dedication to the craft of both the film and the fights. Everyone involved gives there all, and the results are exhausting, exhilarating, and engaging as hell.
And that is that. Should you be seen? Yes. Can I explain why? Only haltingly. However, that should be seen as a sign of your elusive and visceral worth, more than anything else.
Brian J. Roan