Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. After hearing so much about The Raid when it played Toronto I have been champing at the bit to finally see the damn movie, knowing full well that at this point it has surely been overhyped.
My first viewing of any footage was when (producer) Todd Brown showed me a sizzle reel of fight stuff on his phone at Fantasia Film Fest last year. I thought it looked great and wasn’t surprised when word out of Toronto was The Raid is one of the most ass-kicking, bone-breaking, knuckle-scraping, tooth-chipping absurdly awesome high octane action movies ever.
That’s some pretty goddamn high praise, my friends, and what can I say? The movie lived up to my expectations.
What’s brilliant about it is it’s such a smartly simple set-up. A SWAT team infiltrates a rundown highrise run by a crime Kingpin. This place is a haven for criminals, a hideaway for druggies, their dealers and the most violent assholes Indonesia has to offer. The team gets stuck and has to fight for survival against a group of desperate criminals that don’t particularly care for cops for some reason.
In another genre this would be a REC-like zombie movie (minus the found footage aspect), but I’m ecstatic to see a straight up old school action flick.
And I mean it when I say this is an old-school action flick. Fuck The Expendables! That wasn’t an ‘80s action movie, that was a modern Millennium film with ‘80s action stars in it. The Raid isn’t a movie trying to ape the style and feel of ‘80s action movies. It just does it. The Raid feels like someone put John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 in a blender with Ong Bak and hit puree!
Iko Uwais is an amazing action star. He’s the white knight in the movie. Most of the other SWAT members aren’t trustworthy or are bullet-sponges. This guy is your perfect action hero. He has a pregnant wife at home, he prays, he’s nice to everybody, he’s professional and courteous, but if you pull a gun or machete on him he’ll stab you in the goddamn throat and push you out an eighth story window. Just see if he won’t!
The movie lulls you in. It doesn’t try to hook you with a big set piece then introduce you to everybody. Instead we see Uwais’ routine, get a glimpse of his home life, before he goes out on the big job. The briefing to the SWAT team is given in the van on the way to the building and the rest of the movie takes place inside. The tension builds to a breaking point and actually tricks you into thinking these guys are on top of the situation, but in reality they get just far enough in to make it impossible to get back out again.
Moving between gunplay to knives, blunt weapons and martial arts, the film never wears out its welcome as it rockets to the finale. There’s only a couple moments of quiet once they’re in the building, other than that it’s pretty much nonstop action.
My personal favorite was the knife fighting, I have to say. Uwais uses his combat knife so well! His fists are so fast that when he stabs or slices he doesn’t just hit you once, he rapid-fire slices and dices. When he stabs a fool, it’s like watching a prison shanking on fast-forward.
I also love the whirlwind use of the nightsticks to break some noses and crack some ribs.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the great henchmen in this film named Mad Dog played by Yayan Ruhian. As is usual in these types of movies, the crime boss himself doesn’t do much actual fighting, but he’s got some vicious underlings and Yayan is the best of them all.
He’s extremely tough, has his own code of honor and rules of conduct and can beat just about anybody fairly and if this was an ‘80s action movie he would have been played by Al Leong (of Big Trouble In Little China, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon fame). He bears a striking resemblance and carries that same kind of unique aura of badassness. See?
Writing about it now gets me even more excited about it. This is the kind of film you will want to watch at least once a year and will show to every single person you are even vaguely friends with who hasn’t seen it.
The thing’s just fun, man. The action choreography is insane, varied and has real impact. It’s the kind of film you’re sure made someone a widow if you know what I mean. Just brutal.
Director Gareth Evans knocked this one out of the park and I can’t wait to see what he has next for us. Whatever it is, I hope it’s as smart, kinetic and the good kind of cringe-worthy that we see in this film.
The film sees theatrical release sometime this year, but I wouldn’t imagine it’s going to be very wide since Screen Gems is currently prepping an English-language remake. I understand why they’d want to do that, but without Gareth Evans onboard they’re going to have find someone special to make this work because so much of the personality of this film comes from Evans’ direction.
It’s pretty insane that Bloody-Disgusting’s Brad Miska and TwitchFilm’s Todd Brown produced two of the best movies to play Sundance this year. We’re entering a weird era when the critics of the last decade become filmmakers of this one. It’s a kind of Geek New Wave that’s fascinating to witness… at least for me!
And that’s my last review written on the ground at Sundance. I fly home this morning, but I will have a good half dozen more reviews for you as well as my interviews with the two leads of John Dies at the End, the director of Save the Date and Frank Langella for Robot and Frank! Stay tuned!