A hard-bitten armed response team are called upon to perform a raid on a tower block that houses one of the cities most dangerous drug gangs. Things go wrong pretty quickly and the team find themselves trapped in the tower, severely outnumbered by armed and dangerous hostiles.
Britain doesn’t really make action films anymore, and we never made martial arts films, so as an aspiring, British filmmaker whose passion is martial arts action, what is one to do? Well, Welshman, Gareth Evans, decides to up sticks and stake a claim in the immerging world of Thai filmmaking with little more than a western sophistication to storytelling and little else.
A savvy move, most in the know would suggest, because while such territories as China, Hong Kong and Thailand know how to make a film look good, both aesthetically and action wise, their efforts, largely, still leave a lot to be desired from a writing perspective.
Evan’s first outing, Merantau, was little more than an Ong Bak-alike but from a storytelling angle showed much more depth, and as previously stated, sophistication. Action wise, it was pretty impressive, and a valiant effort from the newcomer, martial-arts-star-in-the-making, Iko Uwais, but it certainly wasn’t equal to Ong Bak (but what is, right?).
And so Evan’s and his action muse, Uwais, decided to up their game for their second feature, The Raid. And boy did they! To be sure it’s a very low budget feature, and the story is about as simple as they come, with the occasional twist that may or may not make sense depending on if you’re actually paying attention rather than just waiting for the next blistering action scene, which in all fairness is never that far away.
The aesthetics can tend toward the dark at times, and if you weren’t a fan of the shaky-cam in the Bourne films then strap yourself in because in The Raid the camera is all over the damn place, which seems like it could be a concern to start with, but once the action really kicks-in it’s soon forgotten.
So, the action! Well, if you’re not overly familiar with the best of what Asia has to offer insofar as martial arts action is concerned, then I can honestly say that, depending on your tolerance for gratuitous violence, you will be awed, amazed and treated to something totally different than anything you could expect from action films out west. The fights are swift, inventive, unpredictable and bone shatteringly brutal, so much so that you will find yourself laughing out of sheer incredulity, or perhaps wincing, if you’re that way inclined.
To all you Asian and action aficionados, believe the hype, The Raid is honestly right up there with the best of them. It takes about twenty minutes for the action to swing into overdrive, but when it does, it’s frequent and as hard as a punch to the face, with instances that will no doubt be referred back to as classic. Remember how you felt when you first saw Bruce Lee take on a dojo full of Japanese in Fist of Fury? Remember how you felt when you first saw Jackie Chan fight innumerable gangsters in a mall in Police Story? Or how you felt when you first saw Danny Lee and Chow Yun Fat taking out waves of henchmen, slow-mo style in The Killer? Or when Tony Jaa first showed his stuff against the bare-knuckle fighters in Ong Bak? Well, there are scenes in The Raid that will have you feeling just the same, and you can’t ask for more than that as an action fan.
Take my advice, go and see it before everyone and their sister starts recommending it to you. Give an indie actioner some much deserved attention and money; you won’t see anything else like it this summer.
C+ grade – for storytelling
B- grade – for visuals
B+ grade – for pacing
A grade – for action
Overall grade – B+