It took nearly 10 years, but I’ve now finally seen another action film that reaches the extraordinarily high bar set by Asian classics Oldboy and Infernal Affairs. Even more impressive, it is written, directed and edited by a Welshman (Gareth Evans).
The action takes place almost exclusively in the claustrophobic confines of a dilapidated tower block in Jakarta, home to drug kingpin Tama (Ray Sagetapy) and his loyal army of thugs. However, when an elite 20-man SWAT team – led by Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) – is tasked with taking Tama out, he proves he is not planning on going quietly. As his team mates are picked off one by one in increasingly violent ways, rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is forced to put up or shut up.
With virtually no plot to speak of, if you don’t like violence, don’t go and watch this film. If, on the other hand, you enjoy choreographed fight sequences by the dozen, you’re in for a treat. Largely unfolding through hand-to-hand combat, with or without knives, and involving pretty much all the set at one stage or another – including a particularly fine sequence with a fridge – Evans’ love of Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat (Kung Fu’s blunter, weaponised cousin) is obvious. In fact, he first met Uwais (who is an expert in the art) when he was making a documentary on the subject. He was so impressed by his screen presence, he made him the lead in his first action film (Merantau).
Following firmly in the footsteps of its forebears, you could argue that there isn’t much new about the Raid (apart from its setting in Indonesia and possibly its relatively low budget). You’d probably be right. Yet it seems to be that through stripping the genre back to its roots, eschewing the use of CGI (except for some of the shots involving bullets) and restricting the action to a few square feet, Evans has come into his own. Offering explosive action and deathly quiet suspense in equal measures, and with just enough plot twists to keep you guessing, I have to admit that I started holding my breath in the first five minutes and barely let it out from then on in.
And with the first poster for The Raid 2: Berandal breaking this week, I for one can’t wait to see if it can even begin to live up to part one…
101 mins | 18 | May 18 2012
Watched: October 22 2013, Netflix