With hype for the Indonesian action film The Raid reaching extreme levels does it live up to expectations? Tom was lucky enough to attend a preview screening and here are his thoughts...
Every once in a while a film comes along that manages not only to meet your expectations but surpass them, and whilst this does not happen as often as I would like, the sparsity of this occurrence marks any film that reaches these standards as one of a select few that make it to my list of personal favourites. Many people throw the phrase 'I was on the edge of my seat' around when describing films that the term has lost much of its impact but I was literally perched on the edge of my seat for the majority of The Raid's running time with a huge grin on my face that didn't subside until a few hours after the screening. Yes, it is as good as you've heard.
With a plot so simple I cannot believe it hasn't been done before, almost the entire film takes place in a tower block inhabited by assorted criminals and lowlifes under the control of a powerful drug lord who resides on the fifteenth floor. Enter a SWAT team who are tasked with taking him down, made up of veterans and rookies alike, and you can imagine the carnage as they endeavour to reach the top and make their way out alive against very unfavourable odds.
It is easy for the story to become second fiddle to the action in a film such as these and whilst there are times when it does, I only realised this on reflection as during the screening I was completely mesmerised by the action to a point where the plot really didn't matter. There are enough interesting developments and twists to drive the action forward and this is really all the film requires, although the story does make sure that The Raid is slightly more than just an action showcase.
The undeniable star of the show is Iko Uwais, a native Indonesian versed in the martial art of Pencak Silat which is the driving force behind the incredibly impressive fight sequences, and I have no doubt that his performance in The Raid will lead him to bigger and better things (if that is even possible as they don't come much better than this). Uwais plays Rama, a young family man with minimal experience in the field who is determined to prove himself as a valuable member of the team and when the situation begins to spiral out of control he is one of few that manage to keep focused on the task in hand despite the dangers they face.
The Raid contains some of the most brutal and intense action sequences I have ever witnessed, with lashings of ultra violence that would offend even Alex Delarge and his gang of Droogs, this really is a blistering assault on the senses that does not let up and thankfully never manages to run out of steam. As a fan of extreme violence on the big screen, I could not fault the direction Gareth Evans has taken with The Raid although the more squeamish of you need to be warned that there are a few unpleasant moments that may leave you squirming. The inventive fight sequences and stunning choreography really are breathtaking; just when you think that there is no way the action can be topped, the next melee ups the ante even more, pushing the boundaries of martial arts usage in films and leaving you mesmerised by the sheer audacity of the character's actions.
One of the year's best foreign imports, The Raid is a benchmark in action cinema; by combining all the successful ingredients of those which have come before it, and adding a relatively new form of martial arts into the mix it manages to transcend the genre almost to the point of becoming a masterpiece. This is a film that definitely needs to be seen on the big screen, nothing unites the audience like an epic struggle between good and evil and the fact that certain viewers couldn't keep quiet in some of the more explosive scenes didn't annoy me but made me realise just how involving The Raid really is.
With an American remake already on the way, make sure you see The Raid whilst you get the chance. I have been writing for Front Room Cinema for the best part of 9 months and this is the only rating above four stars I have ever given. I'm still waiting for that elusive 5 star film but until then The Raid remains one of the best new films I have seen in recent memory.
Are you a fan of action films? Do you think that The Raid has turned the genre on its head? Let us know your thoughts below...