Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Raid - Action Art-house

   There has been a fair amount of hype about this film - and for once, it’s actually justified.
The Raid is ‘all that’ and more.

   The reason for this is simple, really. It’s an action film – that’s what it sets out to do right from the beginning and that's what it delivers… in spades!

   The story here operates on a purely functional level – there’s an apartment block run by a drug baron, a team of the Indonesian equivalent of SWAT go in to try and take him out - only to find themselves walking into a death-trap. Sure there are a few surprises here and there but for the most part it just acts as a loose structure for a slew of intense, brutal and insanely choreographed fights. Call it ‘action art-house’ if you will.

   Silat, the Indonesian martial art featured in this film, is a fast and vicious close quarters fighting style, often using knives in combination with punches, kicks and elbows.
I can’t remember the last time I watched a film and winced so much. The fighting is fast and hard hitting – no slick Hollywood cuts and camera tricks here – people get hit, fall awkwardly (often on objects with corners) and get maimed/killed continually throughout the entire film – but the level of artistry that's been put into the choreography of the many fight sequences is what raises this film above other action films - or even other martial arts films for that matter.

   It’s inventive without being overly slick, the brutal functionality of the fighting adding a real sense of danger and desperation to the scenes. In this scene – the threat of being cut by a machete is very much in the fore.
Enjoyed that scene? The whole film is pretty much like that – it’s insane!

   In fact, I challenge anyone to watch the film without letting out an audible gasp at some point – there are so many purely visceral and awesome did-you-just-see-that?! moments.

   The job the stunt team did on this film is ridiculous. With barely any CG or wirework involved at all, you know these guys got seriously knocked around in the making of this film. Hats off to them!

   Leading man Iko Uwais is bound for stardom after his performance here, although comparisons to Tony Jaa will inevitably arise. Whilst he doesn't recreate the stylish stunts and showmanship of Jaa (sliding under a car whilst doing splits in Ong Bak – for example), Uwais’ fight scenes are more frantic and full of (for a better word) ‘bad-assery’ than anything else I have seen recently.

   And speaking of bad-asses, I haven’t even mentioned the character ‘Mad Dog’ yet. No spoilers here - he has to be seen to be believed.

   A mention also needs to go to the score. Redone for the international release of the film by Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park fame), it is a minimal yet vibrant electronic score that lends itself equally to the blistering action as well as the quieter, more emotional or suspenseful scenes.

   Its just amazing how a $1m dollar budget film like this can blow away its $100m dollar Hollywood action blockbuster counterparts – with a Welsh director at the helm no less!

    In terms of its sheer gutsiness and unique sense of purpose (to which it more than delivers),The Raid comes highly recommended. If you are a fan of action/martial arts films – this one is not to be missed!

22 May 2012

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