So many modern action movies are CGI and superhero spectacles. Yes, there’s action sequences, but they rarely involve real contact. And what’s great about The Raid (or as it was dumbly retitled for America The Raid: Redemption) is that when punches are thrown, they connect. You get the visceral thrill of watching people who know how to fight fight well. Director Gareth Evans gives you so many great bone-crunching moments of gleeful violence, the likes of which we haven’t seen much of since the rise of Hong Kong cinema in the 1980’s and 90’s. Our review of the Blu-ray of The Raid follows after the jump.
Iko Uwais stars as Rama, a rookie cop with a pregnant wife at home. He’s sent on a mission where he and his fellow officers are sent into the apartment complex run by Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who’s got two main henchmen: Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), who’s the more violent of the two, and Andi (Doni Alamsyah), considered the brains of the operation. Twenty cops, led by Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) and Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), are sent in and the gameplan is to clear the building floor by floor, under the element of surprise. The mission begins successfully, but when a kid gets through a door to the stairs, he’s able to alert Tama, and from there the twenty are not only pinned down, but outnumbered and outgunned.
The number of cops is reduced to a handful almost immediately, with a roving gang of machete wielding criminals, snipers, and more after the men. Of course Rama is one of the survivors, and he’s got an injured cop with him. What the bad guys don’t know is how good Rama is at fighting. And what they also don’t know is that he’s got a connection to Andi.
The film starts with a lot of gunplay, which is all very entertaining, but once it segues into more hand to hand combat the film comes close to masterpiece status. There are a number of moments in the fight that are all timers. At one point Rama slams a guy’s head against the wall, and to be sure he’s down for the count, slams his head against the wall all the way down. Mad Dog – clearly modeled on the character in Hard Boiled with the same name – is also one of those guys who doesn’t like to use guns so he squares off twice, and proves himself to be a brutal fighter who clearly relishes the ability to deliver blows.
There’s not much under the surface of the film, but that’s never a problem, and everyone involved understands that there’s a simple set up, and then nothing but payoff. But if you like to see great action sequences, this is as good as it gets. It’s surprising the film didn’t become a bigger hit, though it is set in Indonesia, and has subtitles (as if the dialogue was all that important). But it’s likely that home video will turn this into a cult classic. At least, it should.
Sony’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD Master audio. The picture quality isn’t brilliant, but that looks to be a reflection of the production budget. The soundtrack is slightly better as all the hits pack a sonic wallop, and one can watch it with the film’s original score, or the modified for American release score with music from comporser Joe Trapanese and a song by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. The film comes with a commentary by Writer/Director Gareth Evans, who – it might surprise some – is from Wales. It’s followed by “Behind the Scenes Video Blogs” (40 min.) that walks through the film’s stunts and the making of the film. It’s entertaining. “An Evening with Gareth Evans, Mike Shinoda & Joe Trapanese” (41 min.) is the Q&A from the Cinefamily screening of the movie, while ‘Behind the Music with Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese’ (11 min.) lets the composer and songwriter talk about the film some more. ‘Anatomy of a Scene with Gareth Evans’ (2 min.) was one of my favorite supplements because it highlight a small bit of the movie and allows Evans to extrapolate. ‘In Conversation with Gareth Evans and Mike Shinoda’ (11 min.) offers even more from the director and composer. ‘Inside the Score’ (1 min.) is mostly pointless while ‘Claycat’s The Raid’ (3 min.) and ‘The Raid TV Show ad (circa 1994)’ (1 min.) goof on the film. The film’s Theatrical Trailer rounds out the supplements.