Probably the best thing I can say about The Raid: Redemption is that it is very good at being what it is. It’s an action movie. And if your action movie has a predictable plot, undeveloped characters and a silly premise, you better make sure it has 90 minutes of wall-to-wall bloodshed.
Which, thankfully, The Raid does.
Bright and early one morning Rama, a newbie police officer and expectant dad, gets up and goes to work. Today his unit is scheduled for a top-secret raid on an apartment building owned by crime lord Tama, who rents out most of the apartments to other criminals of varying stripes. The raid is organized by Lieutenent Wahyu, an old veteran who is understandably uneasy about having so many rookies taking part in such a delicate operation. But kindly Sergeant Jaka assures him everything will go swimmingly. Of course, if he was right, this movie would have been a lot more boring.
The officers make it to the sixth floor before being spotted by a teenage lookout, who alerts Tama before being killed. Tama promptly send down reinforcements who wipe out a good chunk of the team with machine guns, then goes in the PA and, in a stroke of brilliance, announces to his residents that anyone who takes out some policemen will get free rent for life. Meanwhile, Sergeant Jaka learns from Wahyu that backup will not be forthcoming…because this raid is kind of off the books.
The survivors are pursued and repeatedly attacked by crazed men wielding guns, machetes, pipes, knives and their bare fists.
Luckily for Rama, in previous incarnations he was apparently Rambo, MacGyver, AND Bruce Lee. He improvises an impressive homemade bomb, saws through the floor to escape some bad guys and shows off mad martial arts skills in order to save his teammate Bowo, who has an abdominal bullet wound (which leaks greenish fluid, making me think they hit his liver and his life is forfeit, or he has antifreeze for blood- at any rate, he seems to hang on pretty tenaciously for a gut-shot man). While the police are trying to escape the building, Tama’s henchmen, Mad Dog and Andi, are roaming the halls looking for cops to kill so they can win their master’s favor. Mad Dog fights the shit out of Jaka and ends up killing him; Andi, on the other hand, has recognized one of the policemen from Tama’s CCTV video…and surprise! He’s Rama’s long-lost criminal brother. Though whether or not that will keep him from helping to exterminate the rest of the officers remains to be seen…
According to Wikipedia, the producers of this film originally intended to make a much larger, more epic film about a prison riot, but when it became clear the prison riot movie was too long and too expensive, they made The Raid: Redemption instead. It’s not a bad deal if you like your action movies fast, furious and gory. After a brief introduction we get thrown right into the fight, and there’s enough bullet hits, knife wounds and screaming in Indonesian to keep anyone entertained for ninety minutes. The numerous fights are shot mostly in the halls and (crappy) apartments, lending a nicely claustrophobic sense to the action (including one tense scene where Rama and Bowo hide behind a wall while a naughty guy sticks his machete in the wall to see if they’re hiding there). The martial arts action is mostly shot with very few cuts, which is rare these days but always pleasant to see. There’s also a great deal of defenestration, which you don’t see often enough in movies these days.
Besides the fighting, The Raid: Redemption doesn’t have much else going for it. The characters are so underdeveloped that watching them die in various awful ways isn’t particularly affecting. The acting is adequate, and if Iko Uwais (who plays Rama) looks about 13 years old, well, that’s hardly his fault. The plot, even the ‘twist’ ending, is yawningly predictable. One highlight is the film’s music, by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. It’s atmospheric without being overwhelming; much of it sounds like the pensive beginning of a Linkin Park song (full disclosure: I love Linkin Park very, very much).
Since this is a popular Asian film, I assume that in the coming years we can look forward to The Raid II, The Raid III, The Raid IV and maybe even The Raid V. I’ll probably come back for more.
The Verdict: This movie only really has one thing going for it, but that one thing is AWESOME.