Mark Reviews Movies

The Raid: Redemption


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Gareth Evans

Cast: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Satrya

MPAA Rating: R (for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, and language)

Running Time: 1:41

Release Date: 3/23/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 22, 2012

The premise of The Raid: Redemption is simplicity itself: A squad of elite police officers must infiltrate a rundown tenement to arrest or kill a maniacal crime lord who runs his devilish operation from within it. The complication is that everyone inside this hive of scum and villainy is a potential accomplice to the crazy crime czar. They must go floor-by-floor and room-by-room to make certain no one will interfere. With one misstep, the entire place could be swarming with murderous thugs who could not care less if they kill a cop or two. When that time arrives, the landlord announces that whoever manages to catch or kill a police officer trespassing inside his property will be able to live rent-free for the rest of his life.

That scene and the inevitable result thereof might come a little too soon. Just as writer/director Gareth Evans' film begins to entice us with the prospect of a real-time raid filled with strategic maneuvering and gunplay, all hell breaks loose. A chaotic bit of shooting erupts. The remnants of the squad are separated. All those potential accomplices emerge wielding machetes. They also possess that only-in-the-movies habit of coming at their target one at a time, making it so much easier for the hero to take them down one at a time.

Yes, out of the promise of the tension-filled standoff of what turns out to be a prologue comes a standard-issue martial arts movie, complete with mindless thugs, a sense of level progression in which the hero moves from one location to another to battle yet another swarm of bad guys, and little breaks between the action when he must deal with people far less heroic than him. It's a little disappointing, given how tightly Evans establishes the scenario and starts to execute it. Then again, the first time we note that Rama (Iko Uwais) has abandoned his weapons (save for a knife he swipes with expert precision) for fists and feet, the moment is unexpected—so much so, in fact, that it makes us more conscious of the impressive, more-often-than-not brutal fight choreography.

Rama is a newer member of the local police force. In the early morning hours of the raid, he works out, kisses his pregnant wife good-bye, and promises an older man (his father, presumably) to bring someone back with him. After that, he is simply a face in the squad of newbies that their leader Jaka (Joe Taslim) has assembled. His boss Lt. Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) isn't happy with the idea of having so many untested officers for this assignment, especially since it isn't exactly on the books, but the two can pretty much agree that perhaps the fact that they're disposable is for the best for the same reason.

Jaka preps the team on the way to the building with the basics we've already discussed. The target is Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who has sealed himself off in an isolated security room, watching everything unfold. A brief flashback tells us everything we need to know about him. He executes a line of men until only one is left. He's just run out of bullets. He leaves the gun on the survivor's shoulder ("Hold this for me") and opens a drawer to his desk where he finds scattered bullets and a hammer. His choice sums up the breadth of his sadism.

Tama's two right-hand men are Andi (Doni Alamsyah), the brains, and the properly dubbed "Mad Dog" (Yayan Ruhian). The former, by the way, has a specific role in Rama's side goal, while the latter is seemingly invincible. When the inevitable time comes for Rama to take on the brawn of Tama's outfit, he has to team up with another party to fight Mad Dog; without saying a word, Mad Dog gives off the impression that he believes it wouldn't be a fair fight unless he were to be double-teamed.

After the initial penetration of Tama's lair, which ends in a slaughter, the few remaining players try to survive the onslaught in the first of a few clever sequences. They're holed up in an apartment, with snipers at the windows and a horde of goons on the other side of the barricaded door.

The fight takes place in that room and the one below it, with bad guys shooting through the floor and pulling people down through a hole Rama has opened in it. This, though, is after Rama has the idea to put a grenade in a refrigerator to project the blast through the door, which only goes to show that a plan can be completely nonsensical yet wholly satisfying at the same time.

That semi-contradiction characterizes the film as a whole. It becomes patently ridiculous, really, as Rama makes his way from one precarious situation to another. Every room and every turn of a corner leads him to yet another fist-exchanging showdown with Tama's seemingly endless bevy of hooligans, but then, once the actual fighting starts, Evans' take-it-all-in framing and crisp editing take over the proceedings.

Rama pummels the bodies of his opponents in occasionally excessive ways (A bit involving a broken door and a body slam is enough to elicit a groan of sympathy and disbelief), and the choreography by Uwais and Ruhian makes use of the various environments in which the characters find themselves, even if—such as when the fight participants hop on a table in a drug lab for no discernable reason—it makes little sense.

After appearing to set the stage for something unique, The Raid: Redemption settles into a familiar routine. Whatever works, right?

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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