The game has been changed. Action movies have almost always universally suffered from paper thin scripts, weak, poorly-shot fight scenes and the introduction of lengthy boring and irritating romance subplots. Outside of Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, very few countries have been producing some stand out action flicks over the past ten years.
Thailand is an exception. 2003 had the Thai film “Ong Bak” which made Tony Jaa an international star. Then 5 years later in 2008, JeeJa Yanin exploded onto the screen in her debut “Chocolate” featuring some of the most death defying stunts we had seen since Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s early days. Last year’s “BKO: Bangkok Knockout” was the
Taiwanese Thai equivalent of a live action Double Dragon video game, but even then it was bogged down by a lengthy, dull introduction before we ever got to its top notch choreography. Now, Indonesia gets its chance and surprisingly enough with a Welsh director and writer. “The Raid: Redemption” made its mark last year at the Toronto International Film Festival and most recently blew the roof off the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas for it’s US premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
Rama is about to be a father. His wife is at home, in the last stages of her pregnancy and worried about him because he’s part of a team of elite cops and about to head off on a dangerous mission. His 20 man team is tasked with taking back a 30 story building from a crime lord who has turned his apartments into housing for the worst criminals and drugs addicts in the city. A simple storming of the building, clearing floor by floor, quickly turns ugly when they’re discovered and a bounty is put on their heads. Between apartment after apartment of blood thirsty, machete wielding maniacs and the crime bosses’ two lead henchmen, the police quickly find themselves deep in the proverbial mud and looking to survive.
“The Raid: Redemption,” the first in a projected trilogy, succeeds by keeping the plot minimal, the romance to a few minutes at the beginning and then repeatedly bashes the audience in the face with thrilling fight after fight. Stopping only to allow a reasonable amount of time for the team to recover and for they and the audience to catch their breath between action takes, it is an unstoppable beast of action barreling through hallways, stairwells and apartments.
If the fights were any less than next level, it would be easier to try and come up with a way to discount it, but Evans has worked with his stunt teams and choreographers to put together a flood of brutality that drowns the viewer in a hurricane of blood and bone breaking. No two fights are the same. Enemies are never poised waiting to come at the heroes one by one, like a cheap video game, but instead due to the clever use of the hallways, they attack with a feral realism only to be incapacitated in ugly and brutal ways as the cops work their way out.
There is a modicum of classic twists and turns in the script but it is all bare minimum which only leaves Evans to maximize the level of violence. There is no balance here, and frankly, it isn’t needed. This is the action film audiences have been clamoring for generations and if what the filmmaker is saying is true, we’ll be treated to two more of these pieces in the next few years. There is already news that an English language remake is in the planning stages, but that is wholly unnecessary. While the movie is subtitled and in its native
Taiwanese Indonesian language, there is nothing to be gained from redoing the movie for American audiences.
“The Raid: Redemption” is a game changer. It is pure action movie decadence that delivers an exhilarating thrill ride from the first five minutes to the last. Gareth Evans has produced what action movie affectionados have wanted for years and has put his mark on the map as one of the action film directors to watch out for. This is a movie that wants to be seen multiple times and likely will by fans once it hits theaters in limited release on March 23rd, 2012.