The Raid: Redemption
Still, some haven't found it as pleasing and the rather famous Roger Ebert has completely panned it, laying into it with as much fervour as some of the characters in mid fight in the film, writing it off as a crass, brainless videogame.
The trailers have compounded the positive comments not just by spraying positive review comments across the screen but by showing us some of the moments that have made audiences so excited by the film. Well, most of the audiences anyway.
Was The Raid going to live up to all the comments that had come from across from early screenings? How would the film play out? Would the film turn out to be as awful as Rogert Ebert said, or is he doing a nose in the air act and missing the point of the film?
The story of The Raid, or as the new title seems to be The Raid: Redemption, is pretty simple. A small team of twenty Elite police are sent to take down the gang lord who is atop a tower block which he runs and is filled with his men and people loyal to him. They must get through thirty floors to reach him and take him out alive.
That's the plot, and it's simple enough, yet when you watch the film you realise there is a little more to it than that and it comes through well in the film. All the marketing does set it up as an action film through and through but there is a story in there as well and while it isn't a deep dramatic one with twists and turns, there is enough to keep you interested and engaged with a few of the characters right to the end, as well as make you wonder what will come next.
The film opens well and quickly, giving us a brief introduction to our main character and giving us a small seed of mystery about his reasons for going on the mission while revealing a small part of his own story as well as showing us the intensive preparation and training he spends preparing for his job.
Once this introduction is finished, and it is quick, we are straight into the team dynamics as we enter their van racing to the tower block location. Relevant details are passed in the conversations between each other on the way there and through the action that ensues, and it never feels forced or out of place.
The team's portrayal is really strong from the equipment to the tactics and the way they handle themselves in trouble, it all looks to be presenting a well researched and well made film. The tactics feel particularly real and violent and contribute a great deal to the rise in adrenaline that you feel watching the film. The scenes continue to show how effective and formidable the team are until they are well inside the building, and that is where they encounter the problems of clearing an entire tower block filled with a violent enemy who have no fear of the police.
It is fair to say that you feel tension in the action just as much as it is built through the story. It's built well from the moment that we are in the van with the team, even during the action sequences the focus is on keeping the tension building and delivering more adrenaline, not just delivering another action scene with more short term excitement, and it keeps building through the film to some of the final action and story sequences which turn the story round a little from where you were expecting it to end.
However, and it couldn't not be addressed, the action is amazing, and it wouldn't be too much to say breathtaking for even amongst this crowd of jaded press people there were gasps and loud exhales at some of the more stunning moments of action.
That's one of the most amazing things about the film, the action, because some of the action sequences in the film are absolutely amazing. While it can be said that not one of the action sequences are stock or dull, there are some that just blow the rest out of the water and do make you sit up and take notice, usually audibly. A few of the stunts, which I won't reveal for you and will leave them to take your breath away in the moment, are nigh on unbelievable. I certainly saw a few and thought that someone must have died during the stunt; I just couldn't believe they weren't augmented with editing, CG and any other trick they could pull from the bag that isn't marked "stunt people".
The action is hugely impressive, and not just the gun based action we see heavily at the opening of the film which is indeed hard, brutal and hits home with a shattering reality, but when the guns are lost and they rely on knives, their bodies and the building around them the action intensifies and at times is insane to watch.
One of the more impressive sequences of the film is undoubtedly the corridor scene, one which is attempting to emulate, or some might think after watching it better, the scene in Oldboy (Filmstalker review) where the main character fights through a corridor filled with bad guys. It happens here and it happens hard and fast with some stunning moments of stunt work. I wonder if it is close to being on a par with that Oldboy sequence.
Most of these action sequences aren't straight martial arts fights and while you will see the more traditional martial arts sequences they are well mixed with the location they are in so rather than just being the standoff between two fighters that we normally see. Here the use of martial arts seems to be another step towards reality and they are mixed in with everything else around them grounding them in the reality of the police rather than stopping the world for a round based fight.
That's another aspect of the way the fight sequences are set up that I liked about the film, for there are a couple of more traditional martial arts fights in the film and one big one where three people are locked in a room fighting together. Usually in these scenarios we see the fighters taking turns to fight so that two don't overpower the one and usually it sticks out like a sore thumb, not so here as they manage to make it feel genuine and flow well even if there are touches of that more traditional fighting, but even then the speed and pace of the fighting raises the tension and I could certainly feel my hands gripping together as the tension rose.
The story keeps going throughout these fantastic action sequences, there's always a feeling that the film is focussing on the story with the team trying to get somewhere and achieve something rather than just fighting waves of bad guys and the main thread of the young police officer and his reasons for being there develops and changes the dynamics of the story drive as well as the action and the smaller threads of the older policeman and their mission in the building.
This is an excellent action film that really deals with tension and pacing well. It doesn't throw away everything else for the tunnel vision of a fight choreographer and actually grounds the action, be it gun, knife, foot, hand or object action, into a bit of reality. What we get is a thriller, albeit a very light thriller packed to the gunnels with some incredible action.
The action is the key draw with The Raid though and the action is spectacular. I think I've perhaps used that word and many others too often to describe just how amazing some of the sequences are and I really struggled with trying to understand how they could have made some of the stunts without huge CG, fake people or seriously injuring the stunt people.
Your adrenaline will be racing when the film gets going and it builds the tension up superbly well through the fight sequences, and to a much lesser degree the lighter story. The film as a whole is relentless at times and hits you like a bulldozer.
Gareth Evans should really receive a great deal of credit for bringing this film together which looks strong and stylish in all aspects of the production, far more than the budget might suggest. He's delivered a towering power house of an action film that will deliver thrills and adrenaline in bucket loads setting an incredible benchmark for the remake and the sequels to come.
As for what Roger Ebert says well I can get it, there is very little story developed here, the story is there but the way it develops and is used through the film is extremely light although when it is brought through it is done more than a lot of action films. What he doesn't seem to get though is what a superb action film it is and how well the sequences are worked together and into the location they're in. The action is, in parts, groundbreaking, and that's what he's missing. What are you missing?