The Raid is quite an amazing story in the cinematic world. It was one of those movies that came off the festival circuit and as it was starting its limited release and receiving press screenings, it started to blow up my twitter feed. I didn’t want to know too much about it, even though I gleaned that plot-wise there wasn’t much to know. Yet, I knew how the movie was being touted and I was very much looking forward to it. However, I thought I’d have to ferret it out, then suddenly word of mouth caught on the film and its per screen average was ridiculous and it went wide for a weekend, hence I got to see it. An Indonesian action film, subtitles and all receiving a wide release. Wonders never cease.
One thing this film does very well, and something that I think is a bit overlooked in filmmaking at times, is the set-up. The set-up can be one of the better and more enjoyable parts of a film. It’s the hook and what ties you into the story. The set-up here doesn’t re-invent the wheel but it’s quick and it gets you going without belaboring things. There are a few more layers that will be introduced along the way but you have enough to start with.
Although, there are quite a few players, frantic action and kinetic camerawork, the narrative is kept straightforward such that I always know who’s who and what the stakes are. Whereas in some Japanese period films the players can be a bit muddled when combined with an involved narrative, here everything is crystal clear yet there are developments introduced slowly throughout. It really goes to show you that action films, more often than not are better off KISSing you (Keep It Simple, Stupid). I’m not typically a fan of the genre, but can appreciate it when it’s really well done and I came away enamored with this film.
Aside from simply being able to identify the characters they do get built to an extent and in-between the fighting you learn things and can even find points of identification. I will grant those moments are sparse but they’re also not wasted in the least, every single one is maximized. Another key is that everything serves to add context, and raise stakes for the fights. A fight by itself is just a fight. If the audience is not invested in the combatants, who care how cool it looks? This film excels on both levels.
With all that being said, the fight choreography is absolutely breathtaking at times. The lulls in between fights are where the quality of the film truly hinge but the battles are the visceral component that will pound your pulse or put you to sleep and I’ll admit, while it’s not all about being cool, I said “Oh, that is so cool!” to myself quite a number of times.
Yet, there’s always balance in this film. Those scenes that are few and far between where stakes get raised, plot moves forward and character is built are also well acted. You don’t necessary hang your hat on the acting in an action film but when you get a good turn on top of everything else it’s like the cherry on top, this film has quite a few.
This review will remain spoiler-free, however, I will say I love the way the story concludes itself. It truly is a great little button that has to be earned and absolutely is.
Some people have been asking things like “So do I really have to see The Raid?” I say this rarely but the answer is quite simply; “Yes!”