The Raid' is probably best described as a trip to the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, to dine on the best parts of 'Die Hard', spoon-fed to you by the heel of a combat boot, all washed down with a hefty glass of buckshot. For dessert, we'll be serving exploded heads, slashed kneecaps and more broken bones than an emergency room.
In a nutshell, 'The Raid' follows a crack team of Indonesian Special Forces Police operatives as they bust into a tenement building, deep in the scariest part of Jakarta's underworld, in order to bring down a notorious and ruthless drug kingpin. It's 'Assault on Precinct 13' by way of a Jet Li movie. For one hundredth of the budget.
You'd be forgiven for baulking at the announcement that this is only director Gareth Evans' third effort behind the camera. He started out with the mostly obscure UK indie, 'Footsteps', before Evans made the trip to Indonesia with his wife, who originated from there. It was there, working on a five-part documentary, that Evans would be introduced to the real star of 'The Raid', the martial-art of Pencak Silat. Seen the Muay Thai fights in 'Ong Bak'? This is faster. Seen Jason Bourne kicking heads in for 'The Bourne Identity'? These hits are harder. It's like nothing you've ever seen before.
That's not to say that the film doesn't have some better than decent performances from its actors, but, in the brief, dialogue-heavy exposition scenes, you'll finding yourself shifting in your seat, itching for the next action scene to start. Iko Uwais stars as our hero, Rama, who heads into the building with a pregnant wife at home and, as we learn, a secret in the building. He has the soft features and dreamy eyes of a Korean pop singer, making it difficult to believe that in a couple of seconds he'll be throwing more kicks than the last half hour of Inception.
And when the fists start flying, boy is it electrifying. Evans does this magical thing, that we seldom see in modern Hollywood cinema, where he takes the time to ratchet up the tension so that by the time the characters are ready to come to blows, you've become arthritic from gripping the armrest too hard. It gives the fights gravitas and meaning and it's not just pointless fight after pointless fight. Everything's there for a reason. The pacing is methodical. Which brings us to Evans' directing.
Never before has a director used camera movements so effectively to capture a fight. It moves through the space as if the choreographer himself is holding it. It'll show you every punch to the face, then drop down low as a sweep kick trips somebody. It'll follow people out windows. At one point, it even spins 360 degrees as one of the bad guys is flipped over our hero's head, onto a table.
The Raid' has already had a sequel and an American remake commissioned. Gareth Evans is going to be a household name. Catch his adrenaline-fuelled, high-rise rollercoaster and be one of the people that can say "I knew Gareth Evans before he became a Hollywood superstar." And when you're grinning ear to ear, crushing your handful of popcorn to bits, too scared to put it in your mouth for fear of missing a single frame of this movie, be sure to thank me.