Published Thursday, 24 May 2012
For me, it may be visually dazzling but ultimately is more like a bloodthirsty video game than a great movie.
Make no mistake The Raid is a very violent film. Within the first five minutes three people are shot in the head at close range and a fourth is bludgeoned by a hammer. This is for over 18's only and as I sat in the cinema I wondered who else was watching this film? The answer of course was men, mostly on their own, with no women in sight, surely never a good sign.
Set on the mean streets of Jakarta, The Raid follows a police SWAT team on a deadly mission to clean up a 15-storey tower block of drug dealers and machete wielding hoodlums, floor by floor. Sitting at the top of this viper's nest is gangster number one Tama, who watches the ensuing bloodbath unfold on the tower of terror's closed circuit TV's.
"You're not here to do good," says one of the block's unfortunate residents to the SWAT Team. That's the understatement of the year. Alfred Hitchcock once famously remarked "Drama is real life with the dull bits left out." The Raid is drama with only the action bits left in!
On the way into the cinema, there was a sign reminding patrons that this film is in Indonesian with English subtitles. There was no need to worry, much of the dialogue is "aaaaagggggghhhhh" and the rest is the international sound of pain.
Once the doors have been kicked in and the stairs ascended, we are engulfed in an unrelenting thunderstorm of machine gun fire. Move aside John Woo, Welsh director Gareth Evans leaves no body part safe from the almighty hail of bullets.
Then comes the most savage hand-to-hand combat you have ever seen.
Pony-tailed psychopath gangster 'Mad Dog' throws away his gun when confronting one of the cops, preferring instead an iron-fisted fight. "Squeezing a trigger' he says, "is like eating take-outs". Then comes the bone crunching ballet of Pencak Silat, a traditional Indonesian martial art that consists of fast kicks, hard punches and no prisoners.
The Raid is a complete onslaught pausing only briefly for a flicker of a sub-plot involving police corruption and two brothers on opposing sides meeting after years apart. You cannot doubt the brilliance of the filmmaking at work here; the combat sequences are expertly choreographed and stylishly captured. But there were many moments when the deluge of deaths became too much and my hand became a welcome cover from the ruthless slaughter.
At the end of The Raid I had seen more than one hundred people killed by gun, hand, knife and even light bulb. Outside of the sadistic thrill, you do wonder what is the point of all this. Is this the most violent film ever made? Well, you will be hard pushed to find a more brutal watch. I am unofficially informed that Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King holds the unenviable record for movie body count with a gruesome 836. Amazing, who would have thought the Shire would be more violent than this.
The Raid (Cert 18) is now on general release.