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Review

‘The Raid’ features blood bath, martial arts

Michael Brun

May 4, 2012

Action movies tend to have a comedic element, something to keep the violence from getting too heavy. The Indonesian import “The Raid: Redemption” is an exception. It’s dark and unapologetically violent, often feeling more like horror than an action movie.

First, some background. The movie was shot in 2011 in Indonesia and screened to film festivals as simply “The Raid.” Released stateside under the indie Sony Pictures Classics banner, the rechristened “The Raid: Redemption” has been branching out to wider markets since a limited run in March.

Movie poster for The Raid: Redemption
The action movie The Raid: Redemption was filmed in Indonesia.

The movie showcases the traditional Indonesian martial arts style known as Silat. Welsh director Gareth Evans was introduced to the style while shooting a documentary, and subsequently included it in his 2009 sophomore directorial effort, “Merantau.” His goal was to bring “international attention” to Silat, according to the official website for “The Raid: Redemption.”

He certainly got my attention. The fight choreography in “The Raid: Redemption” is phenomenal. Star Iko Uwais is a martial arts sensation, throwing down with fists and feet of fury. The speed and precision of the hand-to-hand combat stands out as some of the best ever captured on film.

The plot of the movie follows a police special forces team on a raid of a crime boss’ fortified headquarters. After they flub their entrance and alert the guards, the team finds itself locked in a multistory deathtrap. With his team out of action, it’s up to rookie cop Rama, played by Uwais, to save the day.

The violence in “The Raid: Redemption” is prevalent and intense. In one of the introductory scenes, the brutal crime boss personally executes a group of bound captives. After his gun runs out of the bullets before the final victim, he grabs a hammer from a nearby drawer to finish the job.

Throughout the movie, dozens of folks—cops and bad guys, alike—are slain in particularly graphic fashion. The most common death is getting shot or stabbed in the neck, complete with gooey, squishy sound effects and blood splatter.

In this sense, the movie shares more in common with a slasher flick than “Die Hard.” When a criminal is dispatched, there are no witty one-liners or tension-breakers, just brutality and agonizing screams. The violence is over-the-top, but not stylized in the way of “Kill Bill.” It’s stylish, but not glamorous. Sort of like watching a nuclear bomb going off— beautiful, yet terrifying.

Further adding to the horror mood is the soundtrack. For the North American release, Sony Pictures Classics tasked Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and composer Joseph Trapanese with replacing the original score. They created an atmospheric collection of techno beats more brooding than exhilarating. The “Mortal Kombat” soundtrack this is not.

While never joyful, “The Raid: Redemption” is consistently thrilling. It reaches a high point during a fantastic two-on-one fight sequence near the climax. The fight refuses to end, with the combatants weathering a legendary amount of pummeling over the course of several minutes. This is perhaps the most impressive prolonged beat down since Keith David brawled Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s “They Live.”

Authentic martial arts action of this quality is a rarity at the multiplex. If you can get past the extreme violence and brutal tone, “The Raid: Redemption” is an impressive showcase of martial prowess that will have you karate chopping the air hours after you leave the theater.

Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.