One does wonder why Hollywood action movies are so popular across the globe when it possibly produces the most mediocre kind of action films. When you look at some of the foreign films, they pack a powerful punch and are better than most of the junk that Hollywood produces in the name of action. ‘The Raid’ (Also known as ‘The Raid: Redemption’), an Indonesian film released in 2011, is one such foreign film. The quality and intensity of the action sequences in this film is unmatched by any other. Let’s have a look at what makes this film stand out from the rest.
10. Breathtaking Visuals
The entire film is set in a single building. Director Gareth Evans has done remarkably well at using this small setting to his advantage with paranoia inducing shots, unnerving camera movements and spectacular continuity. The audience is thrown into first person for the majority portion of the film and finds themselves in some sort of virtual reality experience out of a video game. The camera angles during the hardcore and bloody fights makes incites all kinds of responses from the audience, making them scream, sigh and yell together. The cinematography of the film is definitely something to marvel at, the actors look and sound like they’re really going at it in full-contact and it really looks and sounds like they’re getting hurt.
9. The ‘Survivalist’ Atmosphere
The entire film is based on people trapped in a building filled with ‘villains’ and how they are forced to play a game of survive or die. A concept which has been used in a number of films, this film is the perfection of that very concept. While the film ‘Die Hard’ popularised the single building setting, ‘The Raid’ can be credited with inspiring films like ‘Dredd’ which followed a similar concept. After watching ‘The Raid’ most of the other Hollywood action films seem like child’s play. ‘When there’s nowhere left to run or hide…You fight or die.’ A chilling film tagline which sums up the whole story.
8. The Soundtrack
The music, which happens to be composed by Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal, seems to be like a cross between Zimmer’s Joker theme and Rage Against The Machine. It is in keeping with the brutal tone of the film and even sets the tone for some of the scenes in the movie. Complete silence is also used effectively, in some scenes the music just disappears causing feelings of uneasiness in the audience, the uneasiness ‘Breaking Bad’ is famous for exploiting. As for the sound effects, the sound editing in the film is one to marvel at as you can easily differentiate between a bullet shot next to you and a bullet shot in the next room.
7. The Sibling Storyline
The only aspect in an otherwise absent story line which draws emotional responses from the audience is the mini sub-plot where Rama, the lead character who happens to be a trapped cop and Andi, who works for the ‘other side’ are brothers. This plot point stands out in stark contrast with the fast paced film that this is. The entire story of their reunion, how they rekindle their past and finally unite to fight together is sort of a necessary relief from the bone crunching piece of cinema the film is.
6. Lack of “Fillers”
Just how many films, action films in particular, have been spoiled by an enormous amount of “filler” sequences which add no meaning to the story or offer no entertainment value whatsoever? ‘The Raid’ does away with fillers altogether, there are no scenes in which the audience wants to look away from the screen, each scene leads to the next and as one intense fight sequence ends, the next one begins. Every sequence has a direct impact on the progression of the film which makes for a high intensity roller coaster of thrills.
5. Iko Uwais
One of the most overlooked aspects of this brilliant piece of cinema, is the star of the film – Iko Uwais. Iko Uwais is the real deal, a wiry, lightning fast Rama who manages to keep the audience rooting for him throughout the film. As a matter of fact Iko Uwais also happens to be the film’s fight co-choreographer. Talk about a multi-talented individual. He has created one of the best action heroes in recent times, a hero who is capable of holding his own against a legion of bloodthirsty criminals, whilst also taking punishment of his own from all sides from his attackers. Rama is the ideal protagonist, he is a rookie cop and an expecting father which gives him a more humane side which the audience can relate to.
4. Insanely Good Choreography
‘The Raid’ has made a name for itself mainly due to its fight sequences. These sequences leave you in a constant state of perplexion where you actually feel like you are watching real men fight for their lives. There is definitely nothing poetic about the scenes but that adds to their brilliance. Most of the time, it’s only man v man, using anything in the room to disarm or disable their opponent. It places you in the hot seat viewing the closest things to actual killings in a fast, real and intense manner. The film also avoids too many ‘slow motion’ scenes which are common in movies of a similar genre and also does away with zooming in on gory shots unless absolutely necessary. The knife fights in particular are brilliant, the gun battles are intense and stylishly choreographed. Right from the infiltration scene to the massacre scene, the movie leaves its audience overwhelmed and gasping for breath. Even the scenes where Rama and his men fight the henchmen are well choreographed and not given the ‘eyewash’ treatment where the henchmen go down easily.
3. A Nominal Plot
‘The Raid’ is an action film and nothing more. Focusing all its attention on the action is what makes it brilliant. The plot is kept nominal with no movie defining twists and no story driven sequences. The premise is very simple and probably seen before quite a few times, a bunch of cops are trapped in a hellish building filled with the devil’s men who are dead set on killing the cops. The lack of plot works in favour of the film, I don’t really see how the film could have maintained this level of intensity if it had even a slightly more detailed plot. (I was, however, proved wrong when the sequel came out) The dialogue and its delivery are nothing to marvel at as well, you could watch the movie without subtitles and understand it completely as most of the film is just high-octane action.
2. Mad Dog
Played by Yayan Ruhian, the ‘Mad Dog’ is my favourite character in any action film that I have ever watched. It’s interesting to note that the actor was an actual member of the Indonesian Presidential Security Force and the Military Police Corps. The fight sequence near the climax between Mad Dog and the two brothers is a masterclass of cinema for many reasons. Firstly, it went against the norm by pitting two protagonists against one antagonist.(Normally, action movies revert to the cliche fight sequence where one protagonist beats up a number of antagonists) Secondly, that fight sequence was one of the most beautiful sequences I have seen in any film. Gareth Evans and his team deserve an award for that particular sequence, it stands on the edge of reason, it’s a scene that makes you gasp in awe as your eyes never leave the screen even for a second. The ‘Mad Dog’ character was so loved by the audience that, even though the fight ended with him receiving a tracheotomy with a tube light, the actor was recast in the film’s sequel and played an equally menacing character.
1. An Equally Powerful Sequel
Many fans of ‘The Raid’ series believe that the sequel to ‘The Raid’, i.e., ‘The Raid 2’ is a better film than the first installment. There are a number of valid points as well which reinforce this belief. The sequel becomes more story oriented as compared to the first part, while maintaining the best features from the original. Some scenes do feel more drawn out however, especially at the beginning of the film. ‘The Raid 2’ does have some brilliant scenes like the car chase sequence which is definitely a wonder of modern cinema. Hollywood should really learn from its marvelous cinematography. One of the rare times when the sequel of a film garnered more critical acclaim than the original, we’re really hyped up for the third installment in the series which is under development.