out of Five
Running time: 101
Superbly shot, fast paced and thrillingly staged, this is a pulse pounding, non-stop action fest that marks both writer-director Evans and ass-kicking star Uwais out as future talents to watch.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Indonesia-based Welshman Gareth Evans, The Raid is set in present day Jakarta (let's get the “Get Jakarta” joke out of the way now) and stars Iko Uwais as Rama, a rookie cop who wakes up, kisses his pregnant wife goodbye and then heads off to join his colleagues for a raid on a run down tower block controlled by vicious gangster Tama (Ray Sahetapy). However, Tama offers the residents (most of whom are thugs and killers anyway) free rent for life if they kill the cops and soon the building is a full-on war zone as Iko and his colleagues battle to reach the 15th floor, using fists, guns, knives, machetes and whatever else comes to hand.
Things quickly go from bad to worse for Rama, however, when first it transpires that his team can't call for back-up and second, he runs into his brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah) and discovers that he's one of Tama's goons.
Martial artist Iko Uwais is terrific as Rama and it's thrilling to watch him punch, kick, twist, snap and crunch his way through legions of heavily-armed goons – indeed, The Raid will almost certainly do for Uwais and fighting style silat what Ong-Bak did for Tony Jaa and muay thai. The script and dialogue are extremely basic (though there is an allegory for corrupt Indonesian society buried in there if you look hard enough), but Evans makes a virtue of the script's economy, ensuring that the action kicks off just three scenes in.
Evans maintains a blistering sense of pace throughout, so that each action scene crashes headlong into the next one, interspersed only with moments that ratchet up the tension, such as Uwais hiding in a tiny crawl-space with a thug thrusting a sword through the wall to check if someone is there. In addition, the skilful fight choreography (by Uwais and co-star Yayan Ruhian) is heightened by Evans' exceptional editing and some stunning sound design work that will have you wincing at every crunch.
Evans and Uwais orchestrate a number of incredible set pieces, the highlight of which involves a hole in the floor between two apartments and the innovative use of a fridge. In fact, the only real flaw in the film is that the final battle is slightly overlong (and gets a little repetitive) and features a recovery from a brutal beating that seems a little far-fetched, even within the context of the brutal beatings dished out throughout the rest of the film.
The Raid is a thoroughly enjoyable, genuinely thrilling action flick that recreates the glorious feeling of watching John Woo's Hard Boiled for the first time. Highly recommended.