Goddamn You! Your kung fu is lacking...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Raid (2011)

Chivalrous facts:
Director, writer & editor: Gareth Huw Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais  & Yayan Ruhian
Stunts:  Iko Uwais  & Yayan Ruhian
The same team that worked on Merantau

Plot (spoiler-free):
Gang leader Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy) has taken over a block of flats within the slum district of Jakarta and neither rival gangs or the police have ever been able to take over them due to it housing some of the city’s most lawless bad ‘uns.
Rama (Iko Uwais) is part of a 20-man S.W.A.T. team assigned to take the tower back. Under the instructions of team leader Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) and Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), they make an assault in the early dawn light, hoping to catch the criminals within unaware. However, things don’t go to plan and soon the team are on the back foot, fighting for their lives just to even escape again.

As time and bullets start running out, the team are forced to use hand-to-hand, bladed weapons and whatever they can use to keep the seemingly endless thugs at bay. Will any of them make it out alive?

Summer 2012 is full of big-budget Goliaths. Many film fans have high expectations for The Avengers, Prometheus and Batman 3. However, in the same way that The Matrix surprised a lot of people that expected The Phantom Menace to dominate the box office that year, The Raid is set to be remembered for delivering just as many thrills as some of its bigger-budget multiplex neighbours.

The Avengers and all their assembling was great and is easily the best Marvel film to date. However, at no point did the viewer think anybody would die and there was no real sense of dread – the complete opposite of The Raid.

The film starts with new recruit Rama preparing himself for the upcoming mission and kissing goodbye to his pregnant partner and before we know it, we’re on the back of the armoured van with the team making their way to the tower block. These opening scenes of stealth are pure John Carpenter are seriously tense. Director Gareth Evans has cited Assault on Precinct 13 as an influence and a guidebook on how to make an assault movie on a tight budget and it really works.

The dawn raid means that the colours have a washed-out look with an emphasis on blues that give a stylised look and a gritty feel.

For a relatively unknown cast, there are some really strong performances. Lead man, Iko Uwais, is a great discovery and has more personality than Tony Jaa and a vulnerability that Jackie Chan always likes to portray. He’s a one-man wrecking crew, but he’s not invincible to the constant barrage of attacks and the events unfolding around him and portrays regret at the killing he has to do to survive. I look forward to seeing him in future roles and hope he can crack the American market.

Ray Sahetapy fills in the role of the Big Bad with real ease and his sleazy confidence makes him a convincing threat. Special mention has to go to Yayan Ruhian who’s performance as Mad Dog is likely to go down in henchman history alongside Bolo and Oddjob. His methodical elimination of the SWAT team has brutal efficiency, but relishes the opportunity to fight with his hands – “Using a gun is like ordering takeout”.

If possible, try and see this at a cinema with other action fans as the collecting gasps, oofs and laughs from the crowd really add to the atmosphere. That’s not to say it’s noisy throughout, there are scenes of high-tension and at one point you could hear a pin drop as Rama, Bowo and the whole audience collectively held their breath to avoid detection.

At first, the recruitment of Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda felt like a publicity stunt for the film, but along with Joseph Trapanese, he’s genuinely crafted a great soundtrack that fits perfectly. The mechanical stabs and monstrous rumbles underline the action on-screen and enhances, rather than detracts from it.
The fight scenes are some of the best seen in modern cinema, but that’s because Evans draws on a childhood growing up watching Asian martial arts films that pride themselves on well-choreographed fighting shown in long takes with clear, wide shots. Hollywood has become over-reliant on “Shakycam” to make a scene appear more dynamic than it is and hopefully this film will show them that this technique is unnecessary and can ruin the action scenes of a film (the Bourne sequels and Quantum of Solace are especially guilty of this). Pencak Silat is every bit as deadly as Eskrima or Krav Maga and the swift and efficient takedowns are breathtaking.
Evans has learnt the lessons from Merantau and its 56 takes for just one scene and gone for shorter cuts, but the editing is still clever enough not to take away from a fight sequence. Using the kind of techniques Sammo would use to shift focus from foreground to action happening in the background before a cut keeps the scenes fluid. You’ve got to actively look for the cuts as the action is so fast paced and engrossing.

The fight choreography is constantly thrilling and the Merantau team have once again put together a series of intense and exciting sequences, without making them feel like a demo reel, like a few other recent martial arts films have done. The shootouts at the start are intense, but the action really shifts up a gear once the team are reduced to using fists, knives, machetes, chairs and even fridges to defend themselves.

It’s not a perfect film - the final fight sequence is a tad too long and the plot is fairly light, but does is need extra baggage? Do other action classics like Die Hard, Predator, Assault on Precinct 13 and Aliens have particularly deep and twisty plots? No, they have a fantastic premise from which they hang a great action film from.
Although the film draws influences from many other films, it still manages to stand proudly on its own. Hopefully, word-of-mouth reviews will encourage people to see this as well as the other summer main events that cost over $200 million dollars more to make. Who knows, once people get passed their phobia of subtitles, a whole world of amazing films may be opened up to them.

This is the first time that a film has warranted walking straight back in and watching it again for a long time. A repeat viewing is a must, but a little recovery time from this exhaustingly full-on movie is needed first.

The original project was going to be called Berandal, a large-scale prison gang film, but budget restrictions forced Evans and his team to streamline the project and The Raid was born. Following the success of The Raid, a sequel is planned and will follow the ideas from the original Berandal script and Evans hopes to expand it to a trilogy. There’s also going to be a Hollywood remake, which does trigger alarm bells, but Sony’s Screen Gems plan on using the same choreographers so it could still be great.

That’s all in the future though, so get to the cinema as soon as you can to see The Raid as it’s an absolutely brilliant take on the siege premise that uses years of cinema experiences to craft an immense thrill ride of a movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment