Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Raid: The Way of the Gun-Fist Combo

The Raid: Redemption
Written and Directed By: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim
Director of Photography: Matt Flannery, Editor: Gareth Evans, Original Music: Aria Prayogi, Joseph Trapanese, and Fajar Yuskemal

Correction: The review of this film accidentally misidentified the director of the film. It is Gareth Evans, not Gareth Edwards.

            “Why are we attacking today?” A soldier asks his captain before their raid of an apartment complex. Another soldier, before the captain can answer, chides such a question. “You do what you’re told!” he exclaims. And what better way explains The Raid: Redemption, an Indonesian action flick that combines cops and robbers with extreme kung fu. The Raid (the Redemption was added by distributor Sony Classic Pictures for confounding reasons) has been heavily buzzed and critically lauded since it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year, and thus expectations have probably risen to incalculable amounts for a film that is simply a balls-to-the-walls action flick. And perhaps because of those expectations, I found the flick to be dull and monotonous, occasionally inspired by its kung-fu intensity, but not once engaging.

            If anything, The Raid should launch the career of writer-director Gareth Evans, who has a tale of classic good guys versus bad guys. The film begins with Rama (Iko Uwais), a soldier whose taskforce must infiltrate the apartment complex of a high level crime lord. The apartment is seething with criminals, all armed with machetes, machine guns, and the likes. And of course, it turns out that the raid itself has not been commissioned on any official channels; these boys are on their own, and soon find themselves outnumbered and outmatched.

            The first thirty minutes of The Raid are like reading directions out of a cookbook. The characters are cardboard cutouts—a scene where the villain mercilessly shoots three men and bludgeons another is used only for shock sake. The building itself is dingy and not particularly fascinating. And when the violence begins, it is first gratuitous and over-the-top, without any particular interest. Once the film quiets down by dropping the guns in favor of knife and fists fights, The Raid does find some steam. Evans knows how to choreograph a fight, or at least let us follow it without losing our footing through over-editing. And when the punches do hit, they do look particularly well. A late climatic battle between three characters seems to go on endlessly, making me seriously wonder if these guys had exoskeletons made of metal underneath.

            But the battles all seem to collide into each other, and Evans seems almost embarrassed that he has to deal with a little thing called “plot.” At a short hour and forty minutes, The Raid seemed particularly lengthy, and the choreographed fight sequences are on the same par as perhaps any Tony Jaa film (or even this year’s Haywire). And given that Evans barely makes an impression with his characters, I found myself not only dozing during the pointless exposition, but some of the fight sequences as well.

            Many are going to champion The Raid for at least its attention to detail when it comes to action—it certainly beats the shaky-cam aesthetic of The Hunger Games—but I wish there was something, really anything, I could hold onto during this dull film. The ultimate problem with The Raid is that it views its inventiveness in the sheer fact of its “moreness,” a quality of which I have no interest in whatsoever. But perhaps the problem is me, and to steal a phrase from another famous cop film, I’m getting too old for this shit. 

1 comment:

Kunderemp said...

It should be Gareth Evans, not Edwards. :)

Don't worry. As a fan of this movie, I understand that this movie was made by a fanboy and enjoyed by a fanboy like me. So, yeah, I do understand some people are tired of this movie. :)