The Raid – Review

The Raid (2011) 

Written & Directed by Gareth Evans. Cast Iko UwaisJoe Taslim.

Ok, let me start with a little confession: I am not a huge martial arts fan, I have always been quite indifferent to Bruce Lee,  I can hardly tell the difference between Jet Li and Yuen Biao and to this day I still don’t get all the fuss with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (I know, I know… but hey… nobody is perfect!). However I am a great action-flick-lover, so much so that I able  to bypass this feeling of indifference and still appreciate and enjoy a martial-arts-based action movie, whether it’s karate kid, blade, Hero, 13 Assassins, Ong-bak (especially the first) and even the recent Warrior.

So when I heard that this was “one of the best action/martial arts movie of the last few years” (or so the papers said), I could hardly resist checking it out for myself.

Let’s get this out of the way right from the start, so you’ll know the kind of movie we’re dealing with here: the story is minimal, in fact it doesn’t really matter. The raid is 100 minutes long and has action, fights and shoot-outs for at least 95 of them!! It is an incredible tour de force like no other: 95 minutes of people shooting at each other and fighting with all sorts of weapons, knives, machetes, bare hands… and that’s pretty much it. There’s not a lot of attempt at creating three-dimensional characters, or at giving a back-story. It’s just unrelenting action unravelling in front of your eyes.

You may wonder: doesn’t it get a bit tedious after a while? Well, this is the incredible strength of the raid: not only it gets away with it, but it’s also fascinating. Watching the choreography of these fights is almost like watching a ballet at the opera, or a dance in a theatre. It is mesmerising at best. And once a fight has reached its climax and it’s about to run out of steam, a new one comes along, faster, slicker, more inventive and even more over-the-top than the previous one.

This is unlike anything we’ve seen before. I don’t think I ever remember watching a film which had this insane amount of action, with hardly a moment to breathe. Yes, some of the fights might go on for a little bit too long, but let’s stop picking needles please! It is amazing, full stop.

Welsh director Gareth Evans obviously belongs to the PS3/X-Box age and the film does look like one of those shoot-them up games, where you’re moving from one level to the next as your enemies become more and more dangerous and the amount of violence and blood increases more and more. Even the building itself with its muted colour and its endless claustrophobic and shabby corridors look straight out of a bad dream while its exterior is reminiscent of a digital creation.

But Gareth Evans is not just playing a game here, he has studied his genre inside-out and throughout The Raid you can spot reminders of John Woo (Hard Boiled, of course), Sam Peckinpah, John Carpenter and of course those thousand martial arts movies from Bruce Lee, to Jackie Chan. However Evans is not just another fanboy willing to make a pastiche out his sources (Did you get that, Mr. Tarantino?!), he’s actually able to create his own action-packed, adrenaline-fuelled and pulsating and visceral movie, whipped along by a propulsive score and the deafening drum-roll of automatic fire guns as the pace never lets up leaving no room for humour and irony. He plays it straight and comes up with a real winner.


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