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.