“A good martial artist does not become tense but ready. Not thinking yet not dreaming, ready for whatever may come.” Bruce Lee as “Lee” in Enter the Dragon.
Welsh director Gareth Evans has combined with Indonesian actor, fight choreographer and martial artist Iwo Uwais for the second time and The Raid: Redemption is the magical cinematic result. Set in the worst part of Jakarta, Raid is the story of what happens when an elite squad of police SWAT officers is sent to a 15 story building to apprehend the crime lord who resides on the top floor.
Uwais is Rama, a relative rookie member of the squad, and he went on this mission leaving his 7 month pregnant wife at home in bed. The squad is commanded by Sgt. Jaka (Joe Taslim) although the mission’s overall commander is Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno). Both Rama and Wahyu have personal agendas in being on this mission and their reasons are revealed as the story unwinds.
There are nearly two dozen cops in the unit sent to take down this building and the first minor flaw in the film is that given the size of the building and lack of knowledge about how many ‘bad guys’ are inside, there should have been a larger unit sent in. The poor strategy and tactics employed by the squad once they are inside is the other minor flaw here, but given the quality of what we’re given on screen, these minor flaws are easily overlooked.
Once they get inside, it becomes clear that the whole mission is one big set-up and it’s the cops and not the bad guys who’ve been set up. Soon the force is trapped inside the locked down building and Tama (Ray Sahetapy) the crime lord invites the residents of his building to earn free rent for a lifetime in return for ridding him of these troublesome invaders.
Outnumbered and outgunned, most of the cops are soon injured, dead or hiding wherever they can from the traveling squads of goons trying to eliminate them with machine guns and knives. Rama finds refuge in a crawlspace in one apartment as he tries to care for a member of the squad who has been injured. Meanwhile Tama has sent his two top lieutenants, “Mad Dog” (Yayan Ruhian) and Andi (Doni Alamsyah) along with some other goons to take care of the remaining cops.
Rama is determined to get to the bottom of what has happened, whether that means escaping the building and returning with help, or just kicking ass and taking names until he can walk out with the head bad guy in his custody. And he does some serious ass kicking throughout this film.
Not since The Matrix has there been such a wonderful mixture of gunfight and hand-to-hand combat and the star of most of the non-gun action is Uwais, an expert in the Indonesian martial-art of Silat. Mad Dog is no slouch either, as he happily demonstrates, and once you’ve seen the talents of both, you know there is going to be a moment of truth between the two.
The action is intense, constant and consistent. Uwais is clearly a star on the rise, with moves and ability to match any of the martial arts stars who have come to the big screen in Bruce Lee’s wake. He may not have Lee’s charisma or extraordinary physical abilities just yet, but Uwais is definitely skilled and able to make best use of those skills. The music and overall sound are also superior, as you’ll be able to differentiate between the up-close gunshot and those fired from a greater distance.
There will be gasps, groans, laughs, and at the conclusion, applause for one of the best action films to come along in a long time. Well worth full price.