Title: The Raid: Redemption
Genre: Action, Thriller
Director: Gareth Evans
Screenwriters: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
I actually sort of agree with Roger Ebert on this one, except that I share neither his misplaced outrage nor his total disregard of the virtuosic craft required to bring this non-stop, head-spinning martial arts assault to the screen. The Raid: Redemption (the pointless and inscrutable subtitle was added by Sony Classics in anticipation of a trilogy) is a stunning technical achievement by any measure, and contains some of the most fluid and forceful fight scenes in cinema history, flawlessly shot and edited by Welsh-Indonesian savant Gareth Evans. (This is his second collaboration with The Raid‘s photogenic martial arts powerhouse Iko Uwais; the first, Merantau, received mixed reviews, and I haven’t seen it.) The genre community has gone absolutely nuts for its take-no-prisoners brand of mayhem, and not unjustifiably; it’s impressive stuff.
Except two things. First, it seems to me non-trivial to point out that, even more than most movies of this sort, The Raid is really about nothing. It’s a technical showcase, straight-up; a demo reel. (I don’t know if I prefer this film’s total and intentional vacuity to the ridiculous mystical mumbo-jumbo of something like Ong-Bak, but there at least it feels like they tried, you know?) Like Ebert, though not to the same extent, I fall into the category of those who want a little bit more. Second, and more importantly, while the martial arts action is impressive, it’s not terribly exciting, if that makes sense; I winced in pain and was duly awed at the athletic talent involved, but never found it particularly suspenseful or pulse-quickening. (This is not entirely unrelated to the first point.)
The Raid is all the rage right now, and while I feel like wet blanket in refusing to get fully on board, I really think it’s too fundamentally hollow to be remembered a couple of years down the road. In the meantime, the film is pretty much exactly what you think it will be, and you probably already know whether or not you’ll check it out.
— Eugene Novikov