Set in Jakarta, the film follows a SWAT team as they try to covertly storm a massive apartment complex run by an evil crime boss. The building is host to all kinds of criminal scum (as well as a couple of kind elderly folks). The plan is to get to the crime boss undetected and remove him from the building without incident – which of course would not make for a very exciting film. Luckily for action and martial arts fans, the SWAT team is detected and get trapped in the building where gun-toting, machete wielding bad guys do their best to slaughter the cops by any means necessary. As the SWAT team members drop like flies a young rookie Rama (played by the insanely awesome Indonesian martial arts expert Iko Uwais) uses his mastery of the Silat fighting style to carve a bloody swathe through bloodthirsty hordes of villainous tenants until he comes face to face with one of the crime boss’ right hand henchmen who is no stranger to Rama. Rama fights to save his fellow SWAT members – or at least what is left of them – and get out of the building in one piece.
I am a huge martial arts fan and in a world where Keanu Reeves can strap on a steel cable and look like he is a martial artist I love that a movie like “The Raid” can blow me away with real fighters engaged in jaw-dropping combat. The fighting style is viciously violent and brutally bloody and this film does not shy away from all of the gorey good stuff. The fighting sequences are extremely intense, and definitely not for the faint of heart.
Director Gareth Evans – the Welsh director who helmed this Indonesian film – does a masterful job in shooting the film. The first third of the film does not involve a lot of martial arts, focusing rather on gunplay as the SWAT members encounter the tenants. Wide sweeping crane shots at the beginning of the film give way to tight moving shots as the film shifts from open areas and exchanges of gunfire to claustrophobic apartments and hallways that contain much of the hand to hand (or foot to face) combat that carries the latter two-thirds of the film. There is an incredibly shot sequence where Rama and one of the other SWAT team members are hiding in a tiny room inside an apartment that almost knocked me out of my seat.
Uwais is an incredible martial artist with plenty of charisma and screen presence to add to his insanely fast fighting style. Comparisons in the genre are unavoidable, but in my humble opinion Uwais is every bit as good as the greatest martial arts legends from Bruce Lee to Tony Jaa. I can’t wait to see what he does next, and hopefully it will not involve doing American films which waste his talent!
I read some criticism of the film that the premise was not original or that there is not much story to it. This is an action film, not “Citizen Kane”! If you want intricate story lines or bold original visions go somewhere else. If you want over-the top bone-crushing, knife slashing action which will leave you fighting to catch your breath -> THIS IS IT! 9 out of 10 stars.