Apart from the old-school rumblings of The Expendables films and the grindhouse tribute that was Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, there haven’t been many major balls-to-the-wall action flicks that deliver the thrills like the classics in recent times. Yeah, you can have your Bourne or Bond films but those are far too polished and – by comparison – quite tame when put next to The Raid, an Indonesian film directed by Welshman Gareth Evans.
A run-down apartment block is about to get purged of its more corrupt inhabitants as an elite team of SWAT soldiers take advantage of the early morning darkness and sweep in to clean up floor-by-floor. Unfortunately for them, the building is run by Jakarta’s most feared crime lord who will stop at nothing to protect what he sees as his, and for the dwindling numbers of SWAT soldiers it appears that escape from this crime-ridden fortress is nigh on impossible.
So, a simple premise that doesn’t require too much thinking about, and that is a very good thing as the action scenes in The Raid are so lightning-quick and intense that there isn’t time to divert your attention onto anything else, apart from possibly considering the fact that there are more ways to kill somebody on-screen than you thought possible. People are flung from balconies, have their backs broken by bad landings, throats are slit with broken glass (albeit not just sliding it across – they actually put some effort in and drag that shard!), necks are snapped, bodies are thrown, shot, stabbed and beaten in all manner of ways that are some of the most violently realistic and bloody seen on-screen since Rambo back in 2008.
The only drawback to all of these high-octane shenanigans is that the film can’t quite keep it up for all of its 96 minute running time. Not that it ever becomes boring, but at around the hour mark some of the momentum does go and the fight scenes are set a little further apart, although this could be seen as a comparative calm before the violent storm of the final battles that take place.
Taking on the video game aesthetic of clearing the levels until you get to the end-of-level boss, The Raid is probably the biggest adrenaline rush of an action film that has come out for some time. It does draw on other films during certain scenes – the shadow of Die Hard looms heavily over a lot of the action – but the whole thing is done so stylishly and spectacularly that it really doesn’t matter. Mention must also go to martial arts sensation Iko Uwais, who plays the lead SWAT soldier Rama, for his fight choreography is nothing short of amazing as he works his way through the legions of enemy goons in his attempt to escape. Quite simply this is a film you must see, if only because there’s nothing else out there quite like it at the moment.