March 22, 2012
Gamers will be slain, over and over, by the insanely violent multilevel bash "The Raid: Redemption," in which a skeezy 15-story tenement complex serves as the setting for a series of stabbings, slicings and a showcase for the Indonesian martial art known as Pencak Silat.
Besides resembling a terrible attempt at spelling "Last Pincake," Pencak Silat to the untrained eye combines the punches, kicks, jabs and krrrrrunches of karate, judo and aggressive Black Friday shopping. Early in the film, Welsh-born writer-director Gareth Huw Evans has a character describe a drug lord henchman whose acquaintance we're about to make as "a maniac of feet and fists."
The whole film is. "The Raid" is maniacal in its pacing and assault tactics. It's also, absurdly, rated R. Fantastic. I love that a film this gory secured the same Motion Picture Association of America rating as "The King's Speech."
It's that "kinetic" part that makes Evans' follow-up to the action film "Merantau" impressive, at least when Evans has the sense to hold his shots. Somewhere in the slums of Jakarta, an underworld boss, Tama (Ray Sahetaphy), is to be extracted, against his will, by a SWAT team that includes the rookie Rama, played by Iko Uwais. Evans and Uwais previously teamed on "Merantau"; he was driving a truck when Evans discovered him.
Mr. Big has wired his building for heavy surveillance, so he learns in a flash how many cops he's up against. "The Raid" pits Rama and company against Tama's cadre of killers, level by level. We care about Rama, in theory, because he has a pregnant wife and, it turns out, a long-lost brother who has ended up in the mobster's lair.
The shots don't merely ape the "Resident Evil" gaming aesthetic; they replicate it. Rama runs down one hallway, slaughter ensues, he pivots, runs the opposite direction, more anonymous psychopaths pop into view, and there's blood all over the walls in no time.
Many adore the film. I felt ground down by it after a while. But then, near the end, the fight choreography grows more impressively complicated, and the camera takes in more of it as the shots stretch out in length. With a physical performer as formidable as Uwais, why not show what he can do, ungoosed by the editor? Even if the editor happens to be the writer-director?
'The Raid: Redemption' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, and language)
Running time: 1:40; in Indonesian, with English subtitles
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