Despite real lack of substance when it comes to story or character development, there are no complaints when it comes to the action.
The Raid: Redemption could be seen as a slaughterhouse more than an action movie. Calling the plot and characters paper-thin would be an understatement, and the body count only stops rising the moment the credits start rolling. Any other film might fail at taking such a basic approach but The Raid (the subtitle was only added for legal reasons) thrives on its simplistic structure.
The movie opens with its only moment of character development. Rama (Iko Uwais) wakes up, goes through his morning routine and says goodbye to his pregnant wife and father before joining a SWAT team on a mission to take down the drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy). What makes the mission complicated is that Tama resides on the 15th floor of an apartment building that serves as his base of operations.
Unsurprisingly, things go to hell immediately and soon Tama is offering everyone in the apartment free rent for life if they dispose of any police in the building. Soon enough Rama and several other members of the SWAT teams are the only good guys left alive. Realizing the only way to get out alive is through Tama, fight and butcher their way to the top.
What The Raid does best is set up the stakes in the film early on. While some people might compare this to Ong-Bak or other popular Asian imports from the last decade or so, it’s clear that Gareth Evans is a fan of low budget 1970s thrillers like Assault on Precinct 13. The Raid is more of a pure survival tale than a flashy action movie, which keeps the pacing relentless and the action exciting throughout its runtime.
Of course it would be useless to review The Raid without mentioning the jaw-dropping action sequences. The movie starts with gunfights (most likely a nod towards John Woo’s films) before getting rid of them for close combat weapons until its nothing but flying fists and feet by the third act. Evans keeps his camera movements and style as simple as possible. He goes against the current status quo by putting his focus on the choreography instead of the camera itself. Considering the quality of most recent action films it comes as a revelation to see someone shooting fight scenes in a coherent manner.
There are no punches pulled throughout the film either. This is a survival story, and it shows through each fight sequence. Every single hit is done with the intent to seriously harm or kill someone, and there are plenty of moments that got howls from the audience I saw it with. This is a hard R action movie, and one of the more brutal action films to come along in a while.
Despite the real lack of substance when it comes to story or character development, there are no complaints when it comes to the action. These are some of the best action sequences and fights I’ve seen in a long time. Gareth Evans keeps things brisk and varied enough to not make the action feel dull or monotonous for a minute, and uses his cast’s fighting skills to their full potential. While it’s true that there isn’t more to The Raid other than its fighting, when the fighting is this good I don’t see a reason to complain.