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Movie Reviews

The Raid




Released: 2012

Directed By: Gareth Evans

Starring: Iko Uwais, Yahan Ruhian

Certificate: 18

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

Under normal circumstances, the festival circuit doesn’t scream the appropriate launchpad for a film that is very self aware in its absurd thirst for thrills. You try explaining this notion to Welsh director Gareth Evans. Thanks to his Indonesian collective landing a few expertly executed flying fists and kicks to various critic’s abdomens during its debut at Sundance and Toronto, ‘The Raid’ has arrived on a steadily building wave of hype.

As with many martials arts extravaganzas, the premise is minimal in terms of depth. Set in Jakarta, the driving force of the film is prominently provided by SWAT team rookie Rama, played by Iko Uwais. His dear wife heavily pregnant and a distinct lack of experience in the field, you can understand his reluctance when he is immediately thrown into action. With an elite squad in tow, the objective is fairly basic. Bulldoze their way through a decadent and grim tower block that is now the home of a devious drug lord ‘Tama’ (Ray Sehetapy) and his capable henchmen (Yahan Ruhian’s Mad Dog being a particularly fierce figure) and take them out. A handful of character’s backstories revealed and a initially horrendous first attempt to take hold of the situation later.. mayhem ensues!

What sets ‘The Raid’ apart from its genre rivals.. is the tight direction of Gareth Evans. With such carnage on screen, it’s almost force of habit (especially for Hollywood standards) for the camerawork to waver in frenetic fashion leaving audiences in a daze. Not here.. first and foremost Evans’ emphasis in portraying the sense of entrapment and being confined by your suroundings as the squad scale the block adds an unflinching intensity to the film, accentuated further by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda’s heart pounding score.

Of course ‘The Raid’ is all about the no holds barred fight sequences and it’s safe to suggest, they are outstanding. Whether it’s the stunningly captured and intricate choreogrpahy of the hand to hand face offs or being wildly inventive when the bullets fly, the film thankfully never feels too bogged down or tedious as a result. To Evans’ credit again, he lets the sequences breathe and opens up the opportunity for you to appreciate their blooksoaked beauty, instead of stifling such a key element with flimsy and contrived visual tricks.

The faults are blindingly obvious. It may occasionally overegg its enthusiasm for the gore and the plot itself wouldn’t look out of place in a bog standard ‘Playstation’ or ‘XBox360′ computer game, so it’s certainly not for the cinematic purists. In addition only Uwais’ charismatic exploits and Ruhian’s vicious persona remotely stand out in the performance stakes, with the rest of the cast being cardboard cannon fodder.

But such gripes pale in the presence of the fact.. that ‘The Raid’ is an invigorating experience that makes Jason Statham’s back catalogue look ‘family-friendly’.

Brutal brilliance!

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