Love it or loath it, the action genre has evolved over the years and many modern action movies have seen a wealth of CGI replacing well choreographed scenes of violence which have, on occasion, reduced the genre to an amusement ride of visual 12A rated shootings. It is, therefore, good to see a genre film that it well executed and does not compromise its clear sense of immediacy with the action. At the risk of appearing to be a Luddite with respect to the use of CGI on film, The Raid films scenes of actual humans engaging in actual combat.
Jakarta’s most notorious tower block is a thoroughly squalid place and a large number of its residents are heavily involved in crime. Indeed many of the activities within the building are organised by a drugs syndicate led by the ruthless Tama (Ray Sahetapy). Father-to-be Rama (Iko Uwais) is on the police SWAT team setting out to curtail the increasing levels of criminal activity inside the apartment structure, with the ultimate aim of capturing and eliminating Tama. The dawn raid has been planned meticulously and the initial infiltration of the building goes well. But the dark, dank corridors conceal a diversity of denizens and they have a long way to go to before they will reach Tama, who resides on the fifteenth floor.
In many ways harking back to the days when action cinema was designed to appease audience demand for violence, The Raid offers little in the way of complex plot or character introspection but heralds a return to the best of exciting action entertainment. Filmed on a tiny budget and with minimal use of CGI, the action is imaginative and immediate. Indeed the use of choreography and stunt effects is enthralling and brutal and recalls the martial arts stunt co-ordination of many Sammo Hung movies of the 1980’s and will no doubt result in inevitable comparisons with Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak (2003). By placing events in a restricted environment writer/director Gareth Evans creates a world that is believably confined but also gives the characters space to interact, even as the violence becomes more widespread. Making full use of the location, this is a film where the humble fridge-freezer is more than a storage appliance for culinary products. The Raid is a violent film but one in which the scenes of often extreme bloodshed from fist, gun or machete are not entirely gratuitous and do at least attempt to serve a purpose in furthering our understanding of the characters.
The Raid is a welcome return to a more traditional approach to action movie making. Fast paced and violent, it is recommended to those with a strong constitution.