Roger Ebert wrote negatively of this film saying “This film is about violence. All Violence. Wall-to-wall violence.” To which I say, “Indeed sir. And I loved every glorious second of it.”
Let’s get one thing out of the way, this film should be seen for it’s action, and while everything else in it holds up, it should be taken for what it is. A straight up balls to the wall action film. And it has no qualms about it, that’s the movie they set out to make. And they definitely succeeded.
The plot follows a team of 20 elite cops as they infiltrate the most corrupt apartment complex in Indonesia, run by a ruthless crime lord and his two right hand men. Only ten minutes in does the carnage begin, when their cover is blown by a spotter in the compound. And once that first shot is fired, the action rarely takes a break, only stopping to provide some very nice twists and turns in the plot.
Acting: I can’t say the acting in this film is necessarily great, but it’s certainly not bad. The entire cast is very capable. Iko Uwais, who plays our young hero Rama, definitely has a certain screen presence and I predict and hope for a bright future in cinema for him. The best performance is probably by Ray Sahetapy, who plays the villain Tama. He brings a certain chilly relaxed demeanor to his character. The rest of the cast performs admirably.
Writing & Directing: Gareth Evans has burst onto the action scene as one to watch. This serves as his second feature film where he explores the Indonesian martial art Silat. (Merantau, also starring Iko Uwais, being the first.) Evans adopts a shooting style that is gritty and takes the audience right into the action, letting it unfold smoothly. Hollywood should take a note from him, this is how you do it. Evans had very limited CGI use, the actors were performing all their stunts. When he did turn to CGI, he really used it well, making it look better than most Hollywood efforts.
One other thing to note is this film’s score. It’s composed by Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese and it’s a very capable one, providing great support to each scene. I recommend getting the soundtrack.
Each fight in this film is more brutal than the previous, and it’s hard to say which fight was the best. They are all amazing and among the best fight scenes ever filmed. Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian(who plays Mad Dog) choreographed the fight scenes, and show that they are true masters of Silat.
If you haven’t yet, I recommend watching Merantau as well. While tame compared to The Raid, it still stands out as an action highlight.
If you love action films, you will do yourself a favor and go see The Raid: Redemption. It proves that the action formula can be rewritten.