Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Raid: Redemption Review

Rama says goodbye to his pregnant wife and makes a promise to his father, one that carries immense weight between the two of them yet for viewers it is the definition of vague. A promise to bring him home. Suddenly, with no further character development or building of a story, we are being briefed by the leader of a S.W.A.T. team on the way to a mission. The first time I watched The Raid: Redemption, this was a very minor complaint of mine, that any attempt at telling a real meaningful tale is left in the dust of action spectacle and ultra violence. I no longer can even pretend that this bothers me anymore. Director Gareth Evans knew exactly what he was doing when he crafted this film, and the result is quite possibly my all time favorite from the genre. Each revisit makes me feel like I just bumped a line of coke and then plowed through a six pack of energy drinks. Not that I would have any idea what that feels like, of course. Sounds euphoric though.

Joking, obviously. Kids, don't do drugs.

The first bullet of the film flies in slow motion, but not to worry. Things are about to speed up, a blast of frenetic energy that will leave you in awe. It doesn't matter if you are with a group of friends craving the chance to soak in the bloody halls of a tenement or sitting alone at home just searching for a distraction. Either way a word will not only float through your mind but likely slip between your lips at some point, an audible declaration for just how fucking awesome the experience of watching this movie is.


I know I said it. I still say it and I have seen the film numerous times. The Raid is brutal and brilliant, a dizzying explosion of bravura filmmaking that made me believe in a genre that I had once left behind. The set pieces are limited to this one drab building, hallways muted by lifeless colors and lit by flickering lights, but what Evans proves is that an ability to choreograph and film action turns what looks to be ordinary into something extraordinary. Along the way we get a bit more insight into what makes Rama tick, both through his personal exhausting path to survival and the deeper connection he has to this fight that was referenced in the promise to his father, but it isn't a lot and truthfully, it doesn't matter. That brief glimpse into his world at the start was plenty.

I think the part of the film that surprises me the most isn't that such gruesome, intense action can be so entertaining but rather that it doesn't get boring being stretched out over the course of 100 minutes. How many bodies can hit the floor before we start to feel fatigue from the redundancy of cinematic death? Turns out the answer is plenty. More than the chaos of The Raid can provide even, because by the time the final frame leaves the screen I may feel battered and bruise yet at no point does the picture feel excessive. It might be hard to believe after so much carnage, but what you just witnessed is only the first act of something much, much bigger.

A punishingly perfect film, The Raid is an action masterpiece.


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