In today’s overcrowded movie market a new film has to have a unique hook to get the journalists writing about it. On average there are twelve new films released in cinemas every week. Without a star to lend his or her name to get the buzz going for a film, a project must use whatever is available to give it a helping hand and get the word out to the public. The Raid has its own built-in publicity hook ready assembled. An indigenous martial arts (known as Silat) film made in Indonesia with a new young star,written and directed by a Welshman. You don’t get many of those types of films that’s for sure.
The story begins with a rookie cop leaving his pregnant wife at home to meet up with his squad. They are setting off on a highly dangerous raid. The target is a tower block in a run down area of Jakarta. This formerly derelict block is a no go area for the Police. It is run by a local crime lord who has fortified the building for his own protection. For a price any local criminal can live in the Block safe in the knowledge that they are untouchable by local law enforcement. The police have had enough of coming off second best to the criminals and a raid is arranged for a special police squad to target the building. The plan is to enter the building quietly and move floor by floor clearing the rooms and arresting the occupants. An idealist team leader, Jaka (Joe Taslim) and a veteran Lieutenant are leading the special forces team.
All goes well to begin with. They enter the building and stealthily move from the ground floor upwards. All is well until they reach the sixth floor. The team are ambushed. The crime lord then puts out a call to all of the block’s residents asking them to seek and destroys all of the Police officers in return for rent free residence in the block for life. Slaughter ensues. The young cop, Rama (Iko Uwais) is separated from his team and must try to find hisway back to his comrades. Once he does this he must decide whether to go down to try to escape or go up to face the Boss and his trusty right hand men Tama and Mad Dog.
This film really has it all for a martial arts film. The film lead, Iko Uwais, is something of a rare breed. He is an absolutely superb fighter. On top of that he is a very good actor. In these types of films it is usually one or the other so it is a pleasant surprise to see the whole package. It doesn’t hurt that his character actually has a bit of depth and a well-developed back story. Iko also doubles up as the action coordinator for the film. So he has a hand in all of the fight sequences.
Every fight sequence is beautifully and imaginatively arranged. They are fast moving and energetic. Good use of the surroundings and everything that comes to hand individualises the fights. The use of a dilapidated tower block gives plenty of scope for variation in fight props and locations. Even the fight scenes that the main protagonist is not involved in is handled with great attention to detail. A nice move from the star as it would be quite easy to only make himself look good. The sequences are made to look as realistic as possible within the realms of fight movies.
The supporting cast is all good as well. Several of them give memorable performances notably Joe Taslim as the team leader. He is no slouch when it comes to action either. Of the bad guys the best is Mad Dog played by Yayan Ruhian. He is as good a fighter if not slightly better than Iko. His sequences are a pleasure to watch.
The whole project is the brainchild of writer / director Gareth Evans. He has produced an interesting and engaging story full of fast paced action scenes. His style of direction is not particularly showy. His style is to document the action rather than make the camera be a part of it. There must be a temptation, with this only his second feature, to make his mark as a director. It is admirable that he allows the action and the actors tell the story and leave the camera on the outside of it all.
Overall an interesting and engaging martial arts film from a new and hopefully plentiful source of action films. Recommended.