Imagine Fred Astaire gone postal. Think “Dancing with the Stars“ with Kevlar vests and bulletproof helmets. This, my friends, is the thoroughly insane essence of “The Raid.” This film is a dance of furiously visceral violence. Body blows. Skull concussions. Lightning-fast lead projectiles breaking and entering flesh. And it’s glorious.
Why? Because this isn’t random, mindless mayhem. Oh, no. “The Raid” is a perfectly calibrated, precision-made machine – the Swiss Watch of shoot-out films. Every single frame of relentless brutality is staged with such surgical skill, you’re left numbly astonished and strangely invigorated. With the finely-tuned aggression of a Neil Peart drum fill, there’s no cheating on the choreography; no sloppy, hand-held shaky-cam to compensate for the lack of craftsmanship.
There are literally HUNDREDS of colliding bodies and exploding squibs in this film. Each one is so exact in its execution that you can be forgiven when a scientific sense of curiosity takes over. How did that guy survive falling off a stairwell and onto a railing, his back appearing to snap on impact? Was it a mannequin? CGI? And what about the driver of that black, armored police vehicle whose body is peppered with so many bullets it seemingly melts, like the Wicked Witch of the West?
Must I even bother with the plot? The tagline pretty much says it all: “1 Ruthless Crime Lord, 20 Elite Cops, 30 Floors of Hell.” A sinister arch-criminal named Tama (Ray Sahetapy) lurks on the top floor of a scummy tenement inhabited by every druggie and psychopath in Indonesia. Iko Uwais plays Rama, a rookie copy whose wife is pregnant and whose future is doomed when he and his cop cronies are assigned to take Tama out… with extreme prejudice and a cache of firepower.
The film essentially follows Rama and his fellow crime-fighters as they endure attack after attack on each floor of bloodthirsty tenants, who are offered permanent residence by Tama for exterminating the “cockroaches” infesting their turf. The action reaches dozens of surreal crescendos with such kinetic force that I found myself having to mentally tune out. During the credits, I literally felt TIRED… but with an incredulous shake of my head and a goofy smile on my face.
The film was written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans (“Merantau,” “Footsteps”). All I can say about this guy is that his work skirts the frayed ends of sanity in ways not explored since John Woo sent Chow Yun Fat down exploding hospital hallways (the real deal, pre-CGI) in “Hard-Boiled.” Even so, he actually threads some character development and plot twists through all of the machete mayhem and bullet ballets.
“The Raid” is, quite possibly, the greatest action film I’ve ever seen. When all of the dust settles, and the last of the bodies has hit the floor, the credits are testimony to the audacity of all that’s gone before. Read down amongst the sizable list of casting credits, and you’ll find: 5 Machette Gang members, 21 Drug Lab Guards, 18 Carrying Boho Fighters, 8 Hole Drop Attackers, 5 AK-47 Attackers, 1 Junkie Girl, 2 Junkie Guys, a Panic Man, and a Tortured Man. And this is only the tip of the machete-blade.
“The Raid” is the best action film of the past decade. It will rattle bones you never knew existed. If you’re an action-movie enthusiast, such transcendent onscreen pain is your gain.