A SWAT team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.
THE RAID (or Serbuan Maut) has hit Australia. It arrives with a bang, a scream and a roundhouse kick. This Indonesian action flick has its sights firmly on international success and it has already impressed audiences on the festival circuit. The director is Welshman, Gareth Evans. Evans made the feature MERANTAU (2009) which was a hit in Indonesia; it also starred THE RAID’s Iko Uwais.
The story is simple. A SWAT team enter a building owned by a drug lord and mostly filled with villainous tenants. The plan is to clean out the bad element and arrest the big boss. However, things do not go according to plan and the team finds itself under serious pressure from a well-armed opposing force. The policemen are mainly faceless characters whom we don’t get to know; action film cannon fodder. They are led by Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), a tough police veteran and Lieutenant Wahya (Pierre Gruno), a political animal who craves promotion. Rama (Iko Uwais) is a younger member of the team and his fighting skills are second-to-none. He becomes the film’s chief protagonist.
The story itself will take up very little of your time and concentration. You will not need to understand any kind of character development. Usually this would not be a good sign, but THE RAID is cleverly built to deliver one thing–action.
Pencak Silat is the Indonesian martial art featured in THE RAID, although that’s a little like saying there are a few Ewoks to be found in CARAVAN OF COURAGE: AN EWOK ADVENTURE. After a twenty minute introduction that includes copious gunplay, the remaining 80 minutes are almost pure martial arts action. The fight sequences are lengthy, plentiful and intense. However, director Evans knows when to find natural breaks in his movie’s flow that allow the audience to gather itself. He is brilliant at building tension and weaving together several plot strands simultaneously. In the hands of a lesser director, this could have been a dumb, overlong action movie, rather than one of the most thrilling martial arts flicks I’ve seen in ages.
Fans of fight films will see immediately how THE RAID takes its inspiration from Tony Jaa’s ONG BAK films. Evans has said he was also inspired by John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976), as well as the classic Hong Kong martial arts movies of the 1980s; several sequences reminded me of that combination of danger and entertainment that was a hallmark of that era of Hong Kong cinema. Interestingly, there is an Indonesian and an international version of the soundtrack. After Evans signed with Sony, a new soundtrack was ordered by the company using some of its better-known composers. Evans reportedly thinks the new score by Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) and Joe Trapanese (TRON:LEGACY) has a Carpenteresque feel.
If you’re a fan of martial arts action, I would urge you to seek this one out. It isn’t in wide release in Australia, I imagine because it is a foreiign film with subtitles. However, even audiences that don’t like “reading their movies” will not be troubled by the minimal subs used. Catch THE RAID on the big screen–it will be well worth your time and money.
THE RAID is screening in Australia currently. It runs for 101 minutes. I rated it 4/5.