I’d been waiting to see this movie since the buzz started late last year. I fully expected to have to wait for its release on DVD/Bluray, such is my lack of confidence in the much maligned multiplex cinema culture. So, imagine my surprise and delight when it was announced that it would be receiving a cinematic release here in the UK! Not only that, but the incredibly complimentary one-liners from reviewers all over the world were continuing to shower it with comparisons to great action movies like Die Hard and were hailing it as the best action movie in years.
So, it seemed that it had stood the test of time as far as the critics were concerned and the initial outpouring of praise last September wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to finally seeing a new Asian martial arts movie that wasn’t plotless and boring. In fact, the praise was only getting better.
Further comparisons to modern Asian classics like OldBoy and Ichii The Killer were being drawn, as well as mentions of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ong-Bak, REC and many others that I hold in very high regard.
So it was with great anticipation that I headed to my local “world of cine” to catch The Raid.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
Many of the issues that are exhibited in other movies of this type have been overcome in The Raid. The plot is engaging and interesting without becoming convoluted. The action scenes are crisp, clear and easy to follow. The complex martial arts scenes actually account for only just about half of the movie, so it does not have the chance to become boring. The super-violent moments are few and far between, so they do not lose their impact or shock value. Many gasps and “woah” noises could be heard from the crowd with which I saw the movie. (I say crowd, does 10 people constitute a crowd? I guess it’s a judgement call.) The main characters are given enough back story to form a connection with the viewer and are then developed as the plot moves forward … these are all traits that are usually found lacking in a piece of this kind and it is a genuine pleasure to see one with such an effort made to address them.
But, the overwhelming difference and the real reason The Raid stands head and shoulders above 99% of all other martial arts AND action movies of the last decade is the direction. It is simply brilliant. It is hard to believe that it is only director Gareth Evans’ third feature. Although, following the success of his first two, Footsteps and Merantau, possibly the quality of the third was to be expected.
He shoots both action and dramatic scenes with a maturity you simply do not see from most of Hollywood’s current biggest money-spinners. His great respect for the genres in which he is working, and their fans, is evident as he avoids the pitfalls of using clichéd characters and plot devices. It is clear that he set out to make something that is loyal to the old school classics of martial arts cinema, while it surges forward in terms of technical presentation and execution.
He has done a lot of work to bridge the language gap here too, ensuring that the dialogue is short and to the point – as it should be in an action movie anyway – giving the viewing public (many of whom, unfortunately are still averse to anything with subtitles) the minimum reason to bitch about “reading a movie”, a complaint that I find intensely annoying at the best of times.
Sidebar: There is already an “American Language” remake of The Raid in the pipeline. In a way, I hope it is extremely successful, for Gareth Evans’ sake. I know he didn’t expect blockbuster-level ticket sales for the original; it seems that getting rich was the last thing on his mind when creating The Raid. However, what he does deserve is recognition, and if this comes from a successful “Americanization” of his work, then so be it. On every other level, this remake is pointless, cynical and serves only to perpetuate the general public’s belief that if a ”foreign” movie is good enough, they will eventually make a “proper” version, so there’s no need to see the original. That standpoint is simply idiotic and really needs to be stamped out.
Moving on from direction, plot and script, the other outstanding aspects of The Raid include the thrashing soundtrack and martial arts choreography. The two work in tandem to create these amazing sequences, each of which are as different as a foxtrot is to a jive. Whether they are working with guns, machetes, bare fists; in one-on-one, two-on-one or ten-on-one, each sequence is perfectly mapped out and carefully shot to ensure maximum impact and minimum confusion. All too often in fight scenes, bad direction and/or choreography renders the action impossible to follow. No so here. Evans and martial arts expert and cast member, Yayan Ruthian succeed in bringing Pencak Silat, this martial art that has rarely been seen in movies, to the fore and really showcasing its differences to the likes of judo and tae-kwon-do, with which most viewers will be familiar.
Overall, The Raid is a bone-crunching, adrenaline-pumping hundred minutes that you will not quickly forget. Fans of the genre will be blown away by its execution and brutality, but I urge you to see it even if it is not the kind of thing you’d usually choose. I guarantee that even if you don’t love it, you will appreciate the skill that went into creating it.
No related posts.