movie The Raid comes weighted with expectations
– rave reviews gushing about the relentless nature of the
movie, a carefully built PR campaign emphasising much the same
and the general suggestion that this was the film to reinvent
the action movie. It’s a lot to live up to, and it’s
to the credit of the film that it pretty much manages to do so.
The story is deceptively simple: a gang of tooled-up but mostly
inexperienced cops carry out a raid on a dilapidated high rise
slum, where a notorious gang lord is holed up, running the place
as both a drugs factory and a sort of hotel for criminals on the
run. Covered with security cameras and full of heavily armed and
desperate criminals, the place has been seen as untouchable, but
now word has gone out to bring it down. But after an early, successful
start, the raid suddenly goes horribly wrong, and it’s left
to the handful of surviving cops to try to battle their way out.
Within this slight plot are several interesting twists and turns
– it soon becomes apparent that this is not an officially
sanctioned police mission, and that police corruption is endemic,
while the criminals all have their own motivations too. As well
as a battle for survival, the film also plays with ideas of who
you can trust, and who the criminals really are.
it does all this while delivering the most relentless, frantic,
jaw-dropping action scenes you will ever see. Much as directors
like John Woo did twenty years ago, director Gareth Evans doesn’t
so much reinvent the action movie as simply ramp it up several
levels of intensity. In fact, the structure, the style and the
plot development are nothing you haven’t seen before, but
here are delivered with such frenetic insanity that pretty much
everything that’s gone before will seem pretty tame in comparison.
Evans’ action scenes are breathlessly stunning, and he sensibly
allows his characters to quickly run out of bullets, ensuring
that there is plenty of astonishing hand-to-hand combat. Like
most action films, it features fights where you know the characters
would be either dead or crippled in real life; unlike most, it
has moments where you genuinely wonder how anyone came out of
the filming alive. While a couple of wire shots briefly drag you
out of the illusion, on the whole this film has fight scenes that
are extraordinarily brutal, fast and deranged. Yet the director
knows when to slow things down too, allowing the characters and
the audience to catch their breath before the next onslaught.
With a pounding soundtrack and no attempt to move the action outside
the confined world of the building, The Raid
is stunning, almost overwhelming. It’s the most exhausting,
high-energy film I’ve seen in years, and if there is any
justice in the world it’ll set a new template for action
movies – though it’s doubtful any Hollywood star vehicle
could pack this much punch. Unmissable.