I’m just going to come out and say it; The Raid: Redemption is one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. It’s literally that good of a film. Prior to seeing the film I’ve been reading nothing but positive reviews and watching tons of impressive footage. Rarely does a film live up to such high hopes and standards. I feared the worst going into the film, especially after watching so many extensive clips and trailers, but beyond all my doubts The Raid: Redemption still shocked the hell out of me.
1 ruthless crime lord, 20 elite cops and 30 floors of chaos. That’s The Raid: Redemption in a nutshell. To be more specific, it follows a SWAT team as they raid and become trapped in a building of hell, full of killers and thugs. Rama (Iko Uwais) is the film’s protagonist. He’s fairly new to the force, following orders despite his better judgment. He goes into this situation with a clear mind, focusing on his soon-to-be-born child that is expected within a few months. The film opens with him working out, preparing for the day that follows. He kisses his wife goodbye and embarks on the mission of his life.
There’s one crime boss that needs to be brought down and Rama and his fellow SWAT members must put their lives on the line to ensure he’s given justice. With each advancement on a new floor of the building comes even more blood-thirsty individuals, who’s skill seem to get better the higher Rama climbs. The Raid: Redemption isn’t as simple as it sounds though, because there’s a story buried underneath all of the violence and bone-crunching hand-to-hand combat.
Someone called the raid without proper authorization, adding even more tension and uncertainty to Rama and his men. They’re now trapped in a building that is not only full of known enemies, but possibly dirty cops as well. The rest of the film unfolds exactly how you’d expect it to, with a few plot devices thrown in to keep the story from feeling too familiar.
The hand-to-hand choreography in film is some of the best work I’ve ever seen. Every fight is planned out so specifically and delivered as a fluid chain of events that never seems to end. The camera is always in the right place and the editing is remarkable. Not one scene cuts too early or goes on too long. The shaky camera that spoils most Hollywood productions is rarely seen and when it does surface it makes damn good use of the situation and only adds to the overall experience.
Watching The Raid: Redemption makes me wish that someday Iko Uwais, director Gareth Evans and Tony Jaa team up for a film, because Uwais displays talent that might even succeed Jaa’s in some form. Gareth Evans as a director knows exactly what works and doesn’t work for martial arts films. Everything is tight, focused and generally believable. Too often you’ll see martial arts films with awesome action sequences suffer from a poorly written story or some under-developed characters, but The Raid: Redemption doesn’t suffer from that problem.
The characters are all given a purpose and the action is mostly grounded, with maybe one or two spots defying that, but by that point you’ve fully embraced the film and should have no problems accepting the film for what it is; a kick-ass action film like no other, a genre defining piece of art that’s going to be talked about for years to come.
If I had any complaints about the film it would be that there making a US remake and that Gareth Evans is working on a sequel. The Raid: Redemption does not need to be translated for American audiences, because the film itself isn’t that hard to follow and there’s no way anyone in the US can pull off this kind of camera work and action focus, without having some A-lister requiring more dialogue or toned down violence.
A sequel doesn’t sound as bad, but it doesn’t feel necessary at all. The Raid closes at just the right moment and while I’d love to see these characters again, I’m ultimately afraid that it won’t live up to the quality of this film. I’m more open to the idea of a prequel, but not a direct sequel.
The Raid: Redemption is an explosive piece of cinema, providing you with hours of endless entertainment. It’s a well-executed, exciting film that we’ve been waiting for ever since Tony Jaa took a walk with the elephants. Director Gareth Evans is now at the top of my list of directors to look out for. I expect his name to blow up in Hollywood, specifically the action genre, over the next few years.
He’s somehow constructed an action film that’s inventive and bold in a market that’s full of safe and boring. The Raid: Redemption needs to be seen by anyone that calls themselves a lover of cinema. It’s an action-lovers delight and a gore-hounds best friend. Go and watch it now and then let me know when you want to go and see it again, because I’ll be ready!
The Raid: Redemption – 9.5/10