An action extravaganza in a high-rise that makes “Die Hard” look like a walk in the park, this Indonesian fight-fest offers a non-stop avalanche of flying fists, legs and torsos (as well as bullets). It doesn’t provide much else, but that’s unlikely to matter much to its target viewers.
“The Raid: Redemption” is just what the title indicates—a police raid on a run-down fifteen-story building that’s the heavily-defended seat of operations for crime kingpin Tama (Ray Sahetapy, dripping menace). The cops, dressed in SWAT garb, are a dedicated bunch, but many of them are untested rookies, and Detective Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), who set up the operation, is an unreliable fellow with—as it is eventually revealed—an agenda of his own.
The hero in the melee that results when the intruders are discovered and Tama unleashes all the building’s residents against them is young cop Rama (Iko Uwais), an utterly honest fellow who also happens to have incredible martial arts skills. He’s hardly immune to injury, but like the watch of the old advertisements, he takes a beating but keeps on ticking—and kicking. He has to face some formidable foes, including Tama’s very different lieutenants, Andi (Doni Alamsyah) and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), the one an analytical sort and the other a simple brute.
A great many bodies bite the dust in the course of “The Raid,” cops and criminals both. During Rama’s obstacle-laden journey toward Tama, he also learns that all the tenants in the building aren’t villains—some, indeed, offer hesitant aid. The fights and escapes along the way are staged with elan, and the battlers exhibit amazing dexterity, especially Uwais, who rivals Tony Jaa’s moves.
There are, unfortunately, a couple of forehead-slapping turns, too. A twist involving something Rama shares with one of the bad-guys (no spoiler here) strains credibility, already in short supply, to the breaking point. And the final revelation of official skullduggery comes as no surprise whatever.
But plot and characterization mean next to nothing in this sort of physical roller-coaster ride. Director-editor Gareth Huw Evans may not have written the best script, but he certainly knows how to stage the action to visceral effect. (He’s also listed as action choreographer, but had help from stunt coordinators Yandi “Piranha” Sutisna, Eka “Piranha” Rahmadia, Esa W. Sie and Rama Ramadhan, along with martial arts choreographers Uwais himself and Yayan Ruhian, old Mad Dog). The result has the pizzazz that always comes from real stuntwork as opposed to CGI flummery. The physical production is no better than okay, but it will suffice.
“The Raid” won’t win any prizes for intelligence or subtlety. But it certainly takes the cake for kick-ass action.