Review: The Raid (2011)


Starring Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Ray Sahetapy

Fight Choreography by Yayan Ruhian

Directed by Gareth Evans

After the success of Merantau I’ve been waiting to see what Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais had to offer for a follow-up. Merantau was a good start, and I believed they would/should make a modest jump with their next film as far as the typical evolution of martial arts action stars. First they were making a prison film called Berandal. Then news was scarce as to that film’s progress. Before long talk started of a different film called The Raid. Would this be the film that launches Iko Uwais into Tony Jaa territory?

The Raid didn’t launch Iko Uwais into Tony Jaa territory. It launched him well above that!

The Raid follows Rama (Uwais) a rookie swat team member, and soon to be father, who is sent with his team led by the brave Jaka (Taslim) into a tenement building containing Tama (Sahetapy), one of the most dangerous drug dealers in Jakarta. What Rama and most of the other swat team members don’t know is that Tama knew they were coming to get him, and he waits until they are well into the 20+ story building and then sends waves of killer thugs to kill every officer, and soon the tenement building becomes a warzone in which Rama only wants to survive and get back to his wife..but aside from the mission Rama also has a secret he desperately wants to hide…

The premise sounds simple enough, and it is, but don’t take that to mean that the story is paper thin or nonexistent. On the other hand, there are dramas that unfurl as the film progresses, like how Tama knew the police were coming, and Rama’s secret, one that could jeopardize his new career, and Tama’s lieutenants, who may have designs on taking Tama’s job…

Once the action gets going, The Raid never lets up. Gareth Evans does a masterful job of creating what is truly a roller-coaster ride of a film. He squeezes every bit of tension from every scene once things begin to go wrong for the SWAT team. Once the tension starts there is no let up until the credits roll. His camera angles are all well chosen, and gets the maximum impact of every scene. His director is sure handed and far beyond what he did in Merantau. Gareth Evans, in my opinion, has now cemented his place as one of the best action film directors around. Such a stupendous job. Evans has earned his seat next to John Woo, John McTiernan, and other great action film directors.

Iko Uwais. There can’t be enough said about him. His performance was great as the bewildered Rama. He never acts like a macho hero; rather he’s just a good guy in a bad situation who simply wants to live long enough to see his unborn child. Iko’s silat skills are on full display, and he doesn’t disappoint. His movements are as brutal as they are graceful, and he has the screen presence to carry the film. For years martial arts fans have been looking for the next Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan or Jet Li. While he still has a lot to prove, Iko Uwais has launched himself into the upper tier of martial arts action stars.

The other actors do a fantastic job themselves. Pierre Gruno plays the old cop Wahyu with the layer of slime and cowardice that will have you hating him before the film is over, and Joe Taslim was also great as Jaka the team leader. In most films he would have been the main action star, and you know what? Taslim could’ve pulled that off. He was that good as Jaka.

The fight choreography by Yayan Ruhian is a masterstroke of intense fighting. Every fight scene continues to escalate, and the fighting is incredibly fast-paced, and range from one-on-ones, to knife-fighting, to two-on-ones and one versus about ten or fifteen. Every fight is well staged and features some of the most brutal takedowns ever committed to film. There were a dozen fight scenes that ended with me cringing and laughing all at once as they concluded in unexpected ways.Yayan even plays the part of Mad Dog, the main henchman of Tama. That may have been a nod /homage to Hard Boiled’s Mad Dog, but Yayan makes his character his own brand of crazy, and his final fight with Iko Uwais is a brutal knockdown drag out that has to be one of the best on-screen fights of all time.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Yayan delivers some of the best fight choreography ever seen on film. Every fight is evocative of the escalating situation, and the speed and skills of all the fighters are placed on full display. There is a brutal rhythm to each fight that sets them apart from one another, but all are part of the greater composition.

STUNTWORK: (10) Sweet lord they used a lot of stunt men, and they needed every damn one of them. The falls were brutal, the ricochets off of appliances and walls and doors and, well damn near everything is the best stunt work I’ve seen since Jackie Chan’s Police Story.

STAR POWER: (10) Iko Uwais has leaped right over Tony Jaa and even Donnie Yen with this film. While he still needs to have a longer body of work, making a modern classic like this allows the discussion to be had about who’s the best martial arts star out there right now. What do I think? Uwais has my vote. Joe Taslim needs to get more work as an action hero, and Yayan needs to get his own film!

FINAL GRADE: (10) The Raid is a new modern-day classic that takes martial arts films to the next level, and raises the bar so high it’ll be difficult to reach for a while, and Iko Uwais is now one of the top stars of martial arts cinema. One of the best martial arts films ever made.

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16 Responses to “Review: The Raid (2011)”

  1. [...] post: Review: The Raid (2011) « Kiai-Kick! Share [...]

  2. PJ Italiano Says:

    We love reading your reviews. We are grant writers who take projects only by referrals; and, we can really appreciate your unique writing style. Your comprehensive reviews and your assessments are insightful, full of thought and analysis. Your writing style is rich and fully developed with new ideas, connections and applications. The strong content of your material is reflective of your superior critical thinking and common sense abilities. Plus you must have an exceptional knowledge of the Martial Art Field. I thoroughly enjoy reading your work products. Now, I agree with you about this picture. When I first saw this gentleman in the first film, I thought he looked incredibly small and without power to perform those “mighty” feats. I know that the majority of Americans are in poor shape physically; and, if those guys over there practice from their youth.

    Anyway, we love and look forward to reading your reviews. We will check out the Raid based upon your assessment and evaluation. Peace be with you and stay strong.

    • Thanks for the compliment, PJ!. I hope I’m getting better as time rolls on. I can’t recommend The Raid enough. It does have more blood than a lot of action films, so there is my warning on that.

  3. Will Silver Says:

    Wow, full 10s! Sounds great, will definitely have to check it out. I still haven’t seen Merantau too, so I’ll probably catch that one first. Thanks for the review!

    • PJ Italiano Says:

      Merantau is on Netflix. We watch all the martial arts movies on Netflix. We watch Bruce Lee movies over and over. I wish I could do that stuff. I know there are women who have mastered that way of doing. I hope to learn one day soon. We also love to go to the movies to watch John Claude Van Damm (in his prime was so good-looking) and Steven Segal. However, I notice that most of their movies are going straight to DVD. I do not understand how that works. I guess the movie stars like Brad Pitt, Angelina Joli and those in that bunch get all the publicity.

    • Yep, I loved the Hell out of this film, but it’s not for everyone. Roger Ebert gave the film 1 star. While he is entitled to his view of the film itself, I strongly disagree with his review in regards to his description of the type of people who would like such a film. Funny that his view point is exactly the reason why I created this website to start with.

      • PJ Italiano Says:

        Michael, I would not worry about Roger Ebert who is part of the “traditional establishment.” Our organization is working to establish a truck stop owned by women and a trucking company with offices in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida. Our goal is to transport freight both as in Domestic and International Freight. We take a non-traditional approach to everything. Now, folks like Roger would say women life us are crazy. We will master our vision. Once we stack some serious money, we want to make movies about our great aunts (who were real characters) and lived incredible lives in their generation. So not to worry, Michael we think like you. There are multitudes who think like you. We love, appreciate and honor you. We look forward to reading your reviews. Stay Strong. There is an old saying, “Come Strong or Not At All.”

      • Ah man, I know exactly how you feel about mainstream critics reviewing genre films. One star seems ridiculously harsh from everything I’ve heard, but he is entitled to his opinion. That mentality is also what led me to start my own site, albeit I was frustrated with good horror movies getting bad reviews from critics who obviously didn’t care for the genre. Martial arts films probably get even a worse rap though, because it’s almost always regarded as a genre without merit from outsiders… which is wrong on so many levels.

        I just found out that The Raid will be opening on the 13th here, so I’m gonna try to watch Merantau before then so I can get all fired up. Really looking forward to both films. Hope they’re as fun as I think they’re going to be.

  4. PJ Italiano Says:

    Michael, we loved “Rain” in Ninja Assassin. The blood and gory will not bother us. Even though we are women, we love looking at those good-looking rascals demonstrate the power of the body both in action and eye-balling. I will tell you something, Michael, there is something to be said for a beautiful male physical body. Truly a thing of beauty to be admired. I notice you have the action star of the 60′s on your picture that comes across to us. I can’t think of his name. He was in Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee and John Saxon. He must be up in age now. I always wondered what happened to him. It is just like in the 20′s and 30′s when many celebrities had to go to foreign soil for recognition and appreciation.

    • Aye, women after my own heart! The fellow in the picture is Jim Kelly. He made a few films after Enter the Dragon like Black Belt Jones 1 and 2 and Three the Hard Way, and some others, but never really had a long career. He actually did a few porno films before retiring from acting. He went professional as a senior Tennis player for a while. He’s now a tennis coach in California. But he’s still a badass!

      • memang bisa ngakak baca komen kamu.. ) )Bagus tidak na film di imdb bukan tealterk pada banyak na votes, tapi lihatlah pada review2 na. Kalau 800an vote, karena film na baru mau release berarti angka tersebut cukup tinggi yg menandakan film ini cukup mendapat atensi.N liat komen berikutnya, P-13 atau minimal R ???? LOL mau keliatan pandai tp malah jadi bego LOL.U mesti tau film ini R, berarti khusus dewasa. Kl PG-13, adl Bimbingan Orangtua (BO)..

        • P J Italiano Says:

          Greetings and Peace Maurine: Please translate into English; or can a fellow martial arts enthusiast translate this comment into English. Thank you and Peace be with you. Stay strong!!!

  5. This is freaking killing me, because The Raid has yet to get a UK release!!!

  6. It’s kinda shame that as an Indonesian I’ve never heard about The Raid Redemption until late last week. Understandably, perhaps, because all I know about Indonesian films are mostly “meh” romance flicks, confusing comedies and extremely cute horrors. I’m surprise to see so many great and positive rave about the film. It reminds me of the golden era of Indonesian MA films in the ’80s–such as the Jaka Sembung series (they’re pretty good, IMO, if you could find them nowadays).

    Anyway, as I saw The Raid for myself, I’d agree that in terms of MA sequences the film has successfully placed itself among the highest bars in the genre. It feels good to see Silat finally get the attentions it deserves. For all intend and purpose, Silat is indeed an MA not to be toyed with. It’s rarely openly taught because the real ones are used to kill in the fastest and most effective way possible, instead of merely self-defense. Like a sword that must drinks blood once it’s off the scabbard.

    I thank Gareth Evans for his tremendous efforts in showcasing Indonesian MA culture. And now I’m eagerly waiting for his next installment in Berandal (thugs). Also hoping to see more of Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian (I very much agree that he needs to have his own film one of these days).

  7. [...] The Raid is out today, and I’ve gushed over this film, and for good reason. For those of you (if you read this website surely you’ve seen it)  who haven’t seen it,  now is your chance, and I cannot recommend this game changer enough! You can read my review here. [...]

  8. […] a few years ago. With breakneck action, amazing martial arts, and a tense story, I had deemed it a game-changer, and I was right as everyone else starting trying to race to catch up to the level of badassness […]

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