Sunday, May 20, 2012

Flick of the Day: The Raid: Redemption

According to Homer Simpson "Everybody knows Rock achieved perfection in 1974". Whatever about the truth of Homer's assertion, everybody knows that the action genre reached its high point with the release in 1988 of John McTiernan's Die Hard. Since then there have been derivatives, there have been sequels and there  have been high concept action pictures galore along with the usual direct to DVD tripe starring the fallen idols and the never been but along the way the genre has become moribund and worst of all dull. Perhaps today's flick of the day is redemption then in the unlikely form of an Indonesian film directed by a Welshman Gareth Evans, The Raid.
In the slums of Jakarta, there is a 12 storey building controlled by a ruthless gang lord. On the orders of the higher ups, a 20 man Swat team begin a dawn raid on the building with the aim of taking down the bad guys. Of course as is so often the case with these things, their arrival is expected and they quickly become bogged down and the body count rises. In some spectacular action scenes, the remaining members of the team must fight their way through 15 floors to get their man and escape with their lives. There are a few twists along the way but ultimately it is one extended battle. Each of the characters brings their own baggage, the leader Rama has a pregnant wife at home and a brother he hasn't seen in years while the gang lord Tama has bought every cop in town to keep himself safe.
No discussion of this film would be complete without noting the incredible level of violence that prevails throughout. Much like the hardbitten action cinema coming out of South Korea and Hong Kong over the last few years, this films wears its lust for blood on its sleeve. In general I am not a fan of excessive violence unless it forms a necessary part of the tale and in this case it does. Whereas the likes of Drive are violent for no apparent reason other than some pretentious commentary on society, The Raid is a violent tale of violent men and all the better for it.
The real strength of the film is the choreography of its fight scenes. Incredible isn't the word, I have seen nothing like it. One particularly gruelling scene climaxed to cheers and applause in the cinema where I saw it. Fast paced and balletic, they are gripping throughout. The film has been a real audience winner wherever it has appeared, winning the audience award at the recent Dublin International Film Festival. There is not much else that can be added really. It's stupid, violent and a lot of fun. After  the last few years, it may just be the shot in the arm, the action genre needed. 

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