Hello and welcome to what will hopefully become my bi-monthly/whenever I get a chance movie review blog. As the resident nerd here at Urban Industry, I have spent countless hours watching terribly dubbed horror movies and positively shonky sci-fi in the name of entertainment. It is in this spirit that I convinced Dan to let me blather on about films I’ve watched. First up for review is Indonesian action spectacular ‘The Raid’.
Director Gareth Evans started out making videos for the Welsh government helping people learn the language. A chance move to Indonesia (where his wife is from) led to a job on documentary crew making programmes on Indonesian culture. It was while making a programme on the Indonesian martial art Silat that Evans met a young man named Iko Uwais. Gareth was immediately taken with Uwais’ skills, and began formulating a plan for the two to work together on a project that would bring Silat to a much wider audience. Iko was initially reluctant but signed on in the end, and the results of their first collaboration together was the 2009 film ‘Merantau’. I first saw ‘Merantau’ at a film festival in Edinburgh a few years ago. I don’t claim to be an expert (or even a fan) of the martial arts genre but I was blown away by this movie. What struck me about Silat is that it seems to be a pretty ‘dirty’ fighting style with lots of knees and elbow getting thrown. Add to this a willingness to use any weapon that comes to hand, as well as the surrounding environment and you’ve got a pretty potent mix for any action movie.
The two have reunited again to bring us ‘Serbuan Maut’ (released here as The Raid: Redemption). I won’t go in to great detail on the plot as I believe the poster sums up all you really need to know – 20 elite cops, 30 floors of hell. Building on the solid groundwork covered in their first film, Evans has come out fighting with a visceral ass-kicker of a film. In the screening last night, the sense of enjoyment was palpable, as the audience oohed and ahhed along with every bone-crunching fight scene. The pace is relentless, and the whole movie flies along at a whirlwind pace thanks to some sharp editing and a non-stop barrage of action. Iko is clearly the star here and he’s given ample opportunity to shred his opponents to bits in run-down hallways, cramped rooms and oppressive stairwells. This is an Asian martial arts spectacular shot through a Western sensibility. Indeed the mood conjured by Evans reminded me of John Carpenter’s ‘Assault on Precinct 13’, thanks to a pulsing score, moody lighting and the almost zombie-like goon squad who keep coming in droves. A very minor quibble is that perhaps some of the fights are maybe a dozen or so kicks too long, but I’m saying that as a complete novice of the genre. If you want backstories, characterisation and story arcs then go see another movie. If you want an honest-to-goodness Friday night movie that feels like a live action beat-‘em-up minus the controller, then ‘The Raid’ is for you. Yes, there is gonna be an American remake. Yes, it will inevitably suck. So go and support this movie and be prepared to be kicked hard in the face by the most awesome action film that has come along in years.
Rating: 4.5 knee strikes/5