The Raid: Redemption
As I sat watching The Raid averting my eyes every now and then to instances of bloodletting too disturbing to stomach, I reflected upon this quote. The movie’s raison d’être appears to be devising a myriad of interesting ways in which to dispose of human life. There’s bullets entering skulls, knifes ripping through flesh and good old fashioned hand to hand combat. Apparently it’s pretty easy for most people to slip into a primitive state whereby Darwin’s survival of the fittest validates the instinctual urge to “kill or be killed”. Critical acclaim on the site Rotten Tomatoes currently hovers at 84% positive. I can appreciate that there’s a visceral high from checking one’s sense of decency at the door. I’ll sheepishly admit that I have no problem with violence when it justifies the story. Quentin Tarantino has based an entire oeuvre on this fact.
Where the narrative fails is that the assaults are the story. The Raid resembles a video game, where trivialities like plot and script are irrelevant and the object is to kill! kill! kill! allowing one to obtain the maximum high score. In that respect, director Gareth Evans succeeds. The body count is astronomical. Yet even then the fight scenes often brought an unintentional smile to my face. Did it ever occur to these attackers that they’d achieve greater success if they charged all at once, rather than spacing themselves out one or two at a time? Of course then we wouldn’t get the elaborately controlled events in which every altercation is at least a 10 minute minimum.
Director Gareth Evans’ actors are more athletes than thespians displaying impressive feats of acrobatic skill. Case in point, star Iko Uwais who plays the lead, also serves as the fight choreographer along with fellow actor/martial artist Yayan Ruhian. Given the technical brilliance of the altercations, comparisons have been made between this and the South Korean thriller Oldboy. Indeed there are physical encounters contained within that rival the corridor scene of that modern classic. This movie is all corridors actually. One particularly memorable spectacle starts with a combatant smashing through the floorboards of a room with an axe. After jumping through that hole, the camera continues to follow the guy through the opening still filming from behind. I’ll admit it’s an unique point of view. However the dramatic structure of Oldboy is light years beyond the simplistic storytelling found here. There is no plot, only sadism. The carnage is virtually non-stop, only occasionally pausing for someone named Mad Dog to deliver a line like “Pulling the trigger is like ordering takeout.” Now I know how Alex felt in A Clockwork Orange when he was being administered the Ludovico technique by Dr. Brodsky.
NOTE: This review is for the unrated cut released to Blu-ray, not the R rated version distributed to U.S. theatres back in March 2012. If this edit held an MPAA rating, it would most likely be NC-17 for the extended shots of graphic violence.