Sunday 27 May 2012

Review: The Raid

Year: 2011
Director: Gareth Evans
Screenplay: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy

Synopsis is here:

You can write the premise on a napkin. A SWAT infiltrate a dug lords apartment building only for the tables to be turned on them. It was never about them getting in, it was always about them getting out. The conceit is simplicity itself and one of the reason I feel an action film like The Raid will gain many fans on DVD Theatrically, the U.K numbers haven't appeared on Box Office Mojo, however, the fact that once again I was in a screen by myself speaks volumes (mainly that I work odd shift hours).

The Raid is exactly what I expect from a movie of it's ilk. The kind of film that get's Roger Eberts back up. It's violence incarnate and completely unapologetic with it. Gareth Evans' film is a ballet of broken bones with a tremendous amount of twisted limbs and large bouts of bloodshed. 

It's also suffers from below average characterisation and a humdrum story. I'm sincerely disappointed that the films dialogue and plot are not up to the level of the carnage. Such thoughts will piss off the hardcore fans of such a genre, however brutality aside, I have to say I found myself lamenting that The Raid didn't push the bar further. Haywire's lead actress wasn't the strongest, but such the female dynamic made it stand out (see also Hanna). The dialogue is one note while most of the films twists are pretty transparent. Don't expect anyone of the actors to be the next Lawrence Olivier. 

And yet, this does nothing to distract from the films ability to startle with it's action. The film showcases the traditional Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat. It is a fight style that I've never experienced before, and one that I enjoyed indulging in. Evans use of geography throughout the film is sublime. The labrinth-like corriders are filled with doors that are quick to burst open with assailants, while the fights themselves are quite remarkable  given the limited space available within the rooms. The Raid is quick to remind you that the environment is a character as well.

Is is however, unfortunate that compared to the likes of older (early John Woo) or more modern (A Bittersweet Life) far eastern classics we are not given a character whose as interesting to follow during the "talkie" moments. It's true that we go to the raid for the chop socky action. However, when compared to the likes of Chow Yun Fat or Bruce Lee, the film falters as the lead actor Iko Uwais just doesn't have the presence. While the only way other characters get to bounce off him is by throwing their fists at him. The dances of death throughout are exhilarating, the charisma that flowed through the films it's influenced by however is missing.

The Raid is a six-pack film, which features moves that allows you to marvel at some brilliantly executed set pieces while you swill some watered wheat and hops around your chops. Films like this always make you double take what you just saw and remind me just how regulated the American film industry is in terms of health, safety and insurance. I'll be interested to see just how Hollywood manage some of the stunts on show, in their soon to be filmed remake. I'd be even more surprised if that film manages to bolster the thinly spread plot and characters at play.