There are some films that do exactly what you expect them to. Contraband was always going to be a by-the-numbers thriller, The Lucky One was always going to be an emotionally manipulative ‘love story’ and The Raid was always going to be a bog-standard martial arts film. The thing is, it isn’t. At all.
Directed by a veritable unknown Welshman called Gareth Evans, The Raid follows an Indonesian SWAT team into a tower block where they plan to take down a drug Kingpin and free the people who live there from his tyranny. The action starts with our hero, Rama (Iko Uwais) at home with his pregnant wife, training and promising her he will return from the dangerous mission. The dialogue is basic and remains so throughout and the tender scenes between the two are short. We then immediately cut to the van packed with SWAT heading to the tower.
The Raid doesn’t hang around and goes straight for the meat of the action without lingering on unnecessary things like plot of characterization. This is often a negative in films, but here the tension and the action or both so overwhelming that you can’t help but lose yourself as people run, jump and fight their way through a grimy tower block. In fact there are so many scenes, like two guys falling through the air still punching each other, that will leave your heart in your mouth you’ll wonder why it’s been so long since you’ve seen something so breathtaking.
Choreographed within an inch of its life The Raid relies on showing you behaviour from human beings that is so logical and so unbelievable that it highlights just how wrong Western action and martial arts films often get it. Evans direction is unique and startling and instead of the normal quick cut, close-up fighting you’ll be used to, he draws the camera slightly back so that you can see all of the incredible fighting in all its glory and often in one continuous take. It’s moments like these that will no doubt redefine action films for years to come in the same way Die Hard did in the 1980s and The Matrix did in the 1990s.
The Raid is unlike anything you will ever have seen or experienced. With incredible jaw-dropping action, razorwire tension and a central performance from an unknown actor that is equal parts tender and ruthless this is a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Pure action film fan heaven.