Friday, November 16, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

Directed by Gareth Evans.
2011. Rated R, 101 minutes.
Iko Uwais
Donny Alamsyah
Joe Taslim
Yayan Ruhian
Pierre Gruno
Ray Sahetapy
Tegar Satrya
Iang Darmawan

Right from the start, the most important detail, one we haven’t even been explicitly told yet, is painfully obvious. Within a few minutes we’re shown Rama (Uwais), a rookie cop and soon-to-be father, with what amounts to a SWAT team of 20 officers on their way to take down an apartment building run by the notorious Tama (Sahetapy) solely for the purpose of harboring fugitives. Yes, the bad guys will far outnumber the good guys. The crucial piece of info we’re not told can be easily surmised from what Rama says to  the people at home, before reporting for duty. I won’t spoil it, you’ll probably figure it out on your own in a few minutes into your own viewing. There are several other “twists”. However, these are more along the lines of “well, duh” rather than “wow!” One character who plays a pivotal role is a tenant whom we have to doubt would ever be anywhere near this building. These things are a death-knell for a most movies. In The Raid: Redemption they barely matter.

What matters is that the time you spent reading the first paragraph is just slightly less than the total “downtime” you’ll have watching this flick. Catching your breath is only occasionally an option. What matters is you’ll be watching some of the most exciting, brutal and beautifully shot action to grace the screen in some time. The first half features a relentless assault of gunfire that would make John Woo proud. It’s all kicked off by one of the most amazing bullet-time sequences I’ve ever seen. The second half sees the shooting take a back seat to bone-crunching martial arts. One character even puts down his gun in favor of a fist fight, proclaiming “This is what I do.” Indeed, it is.

Non-stop action can become tedious and weighed down from dragging around a clunky narrative. Even worse, they just go on forever. I’m talking to you, Michael Bay. Here, the barely over 90 minute frame is perfectly suited to carry a flimsy, yet effective enough story while we ooh, aah and cringe at the visuals. It’s an action film that knows how long it has before losing us and wants nothing more than to assault our eyes. Mission accomplished on that front. For you action junkies, this is the stuff of your wet dreams. On the other hand, if you’re looking for things like depth, character development, witty dialogue, etc., they are not found nor welcomed here. And it’s still a great movie, just not for the squeamish.

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