It has been a while since an ‘all-out’ action movie has impressed. So many Hollywood actioners tend to promise so much excitement but deliver little in audience thrills. Instead, we are bombarded with CGI explosions and stunts that are over-played in trailers and featurettes before anyone has set foot in a cinema to actually watch the movie. The closest thing we get to a ‘thrill’ is to experience everything louder and in 3D (most commonly hacked on in post-production causing headache inducing motion blur). It is then, a fist punching breath of fresh air, all the way from Indonesia, to see The Raid, a low budget martial arts/action film from relatively inexperienced Welsh director Gareth Evans.
The story (of which there is little) focuses on a team of SWAT cops fighting their way to the top of a tower block controlled by a notoriously dangerous criminal overlord, whose army of machete and AK47 wielding lunatics prove a little too much to handle for the unit. The script is minimal and the plot is basic and thin, but these are two elements that are relatively unnecessary in The Raid. Evans provides the audience with just enough back story to understand Rama’s (Iko Uwais) motivations and what plot there is, unfolds mostly in the final third of the film.
So what is there to talk about? Well, The Raid can be broken down as follows; Guns, Machetes, Fist fights!
In the opening third, when bullets are cracking through flesh and bone, the excitement is delivered through the stunning sounds of the weapons. Each shot sounds like it comes from a tank, this really starts the adrenaline flowing and is best experienced in a cinema or positioning your head between two huge subwoofers (not advised!). Subsequently, Evans demonstrates his ability to build tension during beautifully dark scenes after all the ammunition is spent, this is where the movie really gets moving as Rama is chased through hallways by machete brandishing thugs with only his fists and feet to protect him. It is here that we are stunned by the speed and prowess of Silat, the brutal martial art of Southeast Asian territories.
The fight scenes are choreographed exceptionally well, with Evans opting to shoot longer takes with a handheld camera, rather than editing multiple takes together. This method makes for chaotic sequences that often contain brutal fatalities, again, amplified by the sound of bones shattering blasted throughout the cinema sound system. The wincing and flinching noises coming from your fellow movie-goers also adds to the atmosphere and appears to build a sense of camaraderie, particularly as a round of applause was generated following the end of a lengthy fight scene at this particular screening.
The Raid is a one trick pony, but Gareth Evans has succeeded in creating awesome Friday night viewing, allowing us to be wowed by the experience without having to give too much thought to story and character dimension. Probably the best action movie you will see all year, The Raid is a must watch, particularly for those who have been desperately waiting for that rush that actions movies used to provide.
Turn your speakers up! (Warning: Contains violence and men yelling… a lot)