Friday, April 20, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

  Theres a point in this movie very early on, the first real confrontation between our protagonists and the bad guys, where I found myself recalling a scene from another movie. My favorite movie in point of fact: Aliens. Theres a scene in Aliens where the colonial marines get into their first horrific skirmish with the iconic monsters who all but 'tear them a new one'. Up until that point, all the guns and hardware really made them look tough as hell and ready for WWIII. But you quickly realize these poor guys are up to their knees in shit. They're so far in over their heads, that we're bound to sit through one hell of a relentless, unforgiving, balls-to-the-wall, roller coaster ride.  You get that same kind of tip-off in The Raid.  Buckle up.

  First of all, believe the hype.  This movie is wall to wall violence. The kind of in-your-face action that genre fans have been desperately craving for a long time.  Its everything movies like The Expendables promised, and failed, to deliver.  Simply one "Holy shit!" moment after the other.  Indonesian star and star of The Raid, Iko Uwais really steals the spotlight off guys like Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) in one fell swoop. Some action stars can burn through years of movies and an entire filmography and not get a hit this awesome.  It brings to mind the climax of 2008's Rambo. Except, it takes the intensity and impact of that glorious 15 minutes and multiplies it into an hour and a half of brutal carnage.

  Theres another moment when you realize that the movie is also kind of manipulative.  The hero is the hero because he can't be bought out. He's not a corrupt cop. And he has a pregnant wife at home. And he prays. So he must be a spiritual man. My point is, its like telling apart chess pieces. These must be good because white is pure, and black symbolizes darkness.  But in reality, these attributes of his don't make him a compelling character. You're supposed to care if he lives or dies. After all... he has a pregnant wife at home. Thats obviously excuse enough to care.  But its still an excuse. Not a reason. Theres no time to develop him fully as a multidimensional character. Its sad the movie can't be bothered to really flesh him out, yes, but in a flick like this... its hardly a necessity.

  In that same moment you realize the movie is essentially a video game on autopilot. Headshot. Ten points. Action figures with big loud guns and swords shooting and chopping each other up until we can see what's inside.  Blood and guts of course. And lots of it.  The video game jab would've been an insult several years ago, but now, with games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and its successors reaching cinematic heights of raw entertainment, its a total compliment.  Like a video game, you can skip the plot heavy cinematics and cut to the chase. Which of course is the action. Shootouts and knife fights, and outside of the Call of Duty comparison, martial arts.  Apparently a specific kind of indonesian martial arts called Pencak Silat. Whatever it is, its impressive as hell and brutal all the same. Please sir, I'd like some more.

  Though that can hardly be said after sitting through The Raid.  If anything you'll be in action movie detox after its over. Its an expertly balanced excercise in well coreographed overkill and chaos.  Its a bloodbath of epic proportions. Every bit of effort that went into it, from the amazing score by Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park and Fort Minor fame) to the camera work itself, is all focused on intensifying the action on display and contributing to the preceedings in a very impressive way.  The usual shaky cam plague that haunts modern action movies is significantly toned down. Used here in careful moderation to simply accentuate a fight, not send a 9.5 earthquake into your face.  So in short,  The Raid plays like a huge climax to a massive action movie. Its bare bones plot and lack of character development are hardly drawbacks, but you really do wonder what it would be like if you actually cared about these characters. If we had some time to see them develop outside of gun fights and such. 

  Of course it'd be an even better movie.  But there is no reason why you can't enjoy The Raid for what it is: pure action. I loved it. I really enjoyed myself. With the theater room almost all to myself, there was little to stop me from saying "Woah!", "holy shit", and "Fucking hell!".  Not to mention, I was able to put my feet up without anyone bitching about it.  It was a great time and a great movie. I'd see it over and over. Maybe even in theaters over and over.  But with upcoming films like The Avengers, MIB 3, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man and others, I may just have to wait for the blu ray. Rest assured, its one to see. Though, in case I haven't stressed it enough with the comparison to Rambo, this movie is NOT messing around.  It IS a bloodbath. And if that sounds like an hour and a half of heaven on a stick to you...
without hesitation, go. Go now.

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