Guns, machetes and martial arts: The Raid (review)

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The Raid, movie
The Raid: it might not be for everyone, but the massive scraps deserve adulation for their choreography

Gareth Huw Evans’ The Raid isn’t just an action film. It is the action film. In fact, it’s difficult to remember a film with so many bone-crunching sequences, and so, equipped with my emergency germolene and bandages, I was ready to face the assault, as I headed down to Dartington’s, Barn Cinema.

Rama (a rookie cop and an expectant father) is part of a police task force, which has been ordered to raid a derelict building in the Jakarta slums – which houses the city’s most dangerous murderers, killers and gangsters. The apartment block has been considered untouchable by rival gangs and the police. And at the top of building lives the notorious crime lord, Tama. But all of that is about to change when the elite unit storms the building, determined to take down the ‘untouchable’, Tama.

The Raid is a mixture of guns, machetes and martial arts – always a great mix! When someone isn’t having their throat slit (with a fluorescent bulb), they’re having their back broken or someone is delivering a devastating, swinging-neck-breaker, and with far more vigour than anything seen in yesteryear’s WWF – and that’s the wrestling shows not the pandas! The action doesn’t so much as make you wince, but squirm uncontrollably, and that’s something I’ve not experienced in quite a while.

With its enclosed setting, the film has obvious similarities to John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992), or Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy (2003). The Raid certainly has the frenetic – almost balletic – quality that John Woo so famously displayed in his Hong Kong cinema days.

Evans’ film also features a hallway sequence similar to Oldboy’s, but while it’s bigger and far more violent – than that infamous scene – it doesn’t attain the same level of poetic elegance. Put simply, it’s just a massive scrap, in a hallway.

But what would the visuals be without the sound of those bones breaking? Pointless! Fortunately, the audio in Evans’ film – soundtrack included – only exacerbates your wincing, with each punch, kick and KO resonating with thunderous effect.

Some might argue that the film is rather slim when it comes to its plot. But the film’s succinct narrative is a welcome reprieve in the era of bloated, Hollywood, action-spectacles. In fact, there’s a plot twist which isn’t cumbersome, but I would have been quiet happy without it. However, I suppose this twist could be deemed to add something extra to the film’s final fight, but really the film’s plot is second to its breakneck-action, so everything else is just window-dressing.

While this superb and ultra-violent film may not be to everybody’s liking, the film’s choreography (unquestionably) deserves your respect and adulation. The Raid isn’t just the best action film of 2012, it’s probably the punchiest action film, since Tony Jaa’s Ong-bak (2003). If you’re a fan of the ole fisty-cuffs, then I suggest you catch it before it punches you in the face.