Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: The Raid (2012)


“Go to work and have a fun.”

Director: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ray Sahetapy, Joe Taslim and Doni Alamsyah
Writer: Gareth Evans

Action movies are a genre that I used to love, but I must say of late I’ve really had problems getting into them. It really has to do with how most movies are shot with the ‘shaky cam’ approach or the ‘rapid editing’ technique. I understand the theory behind them and how they are supposed to help in conveying action, but they seem to have gotten out of control in my opinion and completely ruin action movies these days. It annoys me when movies put all this effort into creating exciting set pieces and then destroy them through the visual aesthetic. It came as a relief then when I sat down to watch The Raid and found a movie that not only used these approaches correctly, but also managed to put on one of the most exciting action movies I’ve seen in a while.

Gareth Evans creates a simple story in which to build the action around. Honestly there is not a lot of this movie wasted, with it either giving us action set pieces or short focused jabs of story. Being 101 minutes it’s shorter than most 2 hours action epics and yet tells a better story than most. The first five minutes sets up the three main character points of the main lead Rama (Iko Uwais). We know he’s a husband and soon to be father, we know he’s an honourable man and we know that there is a secondary reason for him to be going on this raid. The audience doesn’t need any more to go on as we have everything we need to give a damn.

There are plenty of characters in this movie that are no more than villain or good guy as there is a big body count and Gareth Evans pretty much makes sure that time is only spent on the characters that are necessary. So yes it is obvious which characters are going to survive to at least the third act, but the movie isn’t really trying to trick you into guessing who’s going to live and die, instead it wants you to go along for the ride and quickly get to know the characters that are important. Seeming that it’s so important to get to know the characters quickly it’s a good thing the actors do a great job.

Iko Uwais is great as the central lead, his character comes off as very noble, and he has a charisma that is easy to get behind. Joe Taslim as lead police officer Jaka also does a great job as the leader who’s trying to get his men out of a really bad situation. The villain side is also made up of some excellent acting with the highlight being Ray Saheptapy as Tama, the crime lord who owns the building where the raid is taking place. He never hams it up which would be easy to do in this role, instead he creates a bad man that simmers with a quiet intensity that is really disturbing. When he does snap it’s a sight to behold.

Throughout the movie there are some impressive action set pieces that are brutal. A number of times I saw audience members wincing at the violence and a few walk out. It’s not that the blood is over the top, but more that the action is played out as realistically as possible. While this might turn some viewers away, it does create a pervading tension that won’t let up; as you know that the police officers are in one of the worst situations you could be in. Gareth Evans also makes sure that we can see all the action, and even in the most hectic scenes it is easy to know exactly what’s going on. Finally he uses shaky camera techniques, but instead of using them to make the scene seem kinetic, he uses them instead to create disorientation in audiences so they are experiencing what the main characters are going through. It’s never over used and is just one of many tools to create an excellent action movie.

As you can tell I’m very high on this movie. There are chances that this will appear on my top ten list of 2012 as it’s that good of an action movie. In an era where the art of creating action movies is fading away, it’s nice to see a movie show everyone how it should be done. If there is one thing that will turn away audiences, it is the brutality of some of the scenes. How ever if this isn’t an issue for people, and they are after one of the best action movies out there, then stop reading this review and get out there and watch this.

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