Thursday, May 3, 2012

And now for something completely different. "The Raid: Redemption"

I caught the Indonesian movie The Raid: Redemption at the cinema. This is less a review--there are plenty of good ones all over the place--than just a few comments which will only makes sense to those who have seen it.

If The Raid: Redemption was a movie made in Hong Kong during the 1980s, either the prequel or the sequel or perhaps both would have already been shot, edited and ready for distribution. The title is the first give-away; it could possibly be preceded by “Jaka and Rama: Before the Raid” with “The Raid: Revenge” as the final movie of the trilogy. There are more indications within the narrative itself—references to important events that happened in the years before the raid and an obvious refusal to wind things up in the last scene. So we can hope for more.

Death comes in all the typical ways for the characters and extras: they are shot, hit with machetes, stabbed with knives and thrown from balconies. A few get beaten to death and there are at least two who are dispatched with an axe. Most this takes place in close-up with lots of blood. And a lot of them have their heads crushed against walls, tables or floors; head crushing may be the most common form of death among the combatants.

The one extended scene with dialog and recognizable characters is dull and poorly written and seems to be dropped into the middle of the movie for no real reason. We don’t know anything more after it happens than we did before nor do the characters change as a result of it. But without this scene the movie would have been about 95 minutes of brutal action and five minutes of credits.

There were the usual martial arts conventions and tropes. A character that has been beaten into a bloody pulp and left for dead gets up and starts fighting again; combatants gain strength by fighting—as the bodies pile up our heroes get stronger although they absorbed a lot of damage while beating up fifty or sixty machete wielding maniacs.

A movie creates its own universe with special laws of physics and codes of behavior. The Raid: Redemption violated its own rules really egregiously at least once. As I watched the paramilitary SWAT team fight its way up the stairs and get slaughtered while doing it I thought it was strange that director/writer/editor/action director Gareth Evans didn’t give them some of the best and most basic weapons for door to door fighting: shotguns and hand grenades but assumed that he just wanted to lengthen the odds even more against the invaders. But then one of them makes an ingenious very short range artillery piece from a big propane tank stuffed into a refrigerator. The open side of the refrigerator is put flush against a door the remaining SWAT survivors have barricaded against a murderous mob in the hallway. When the propane is detonated the appliance that it is in shapes the fiery explosion into and through the doorway, killing a lot of assailants. The detonator for the improvised explosive was a hand grenade—which he shouldn’t have had according to the rules of combat laid down for this particular movie. Not a big deal but distracting.

I am eager to get the DVD so I can watch some of the stunts in slow motion or even frame by frame. There are some amazing falls, crunching landings and impossible cinematic athletic feats. Indonesian stuntmen are a very hardy group.


  1. Hi ewaffle --

    "The Raid: Redemption" played at a film festival last year in Hong Kong. Didn't see it but a friend who did raved about it. Reading your review makes me look forward even more to checking out the film when it gets a general release in Hong Kong -- either later this month or sometime next month. :)

  2. I was surprised that it opened in Motown--and that it actually ran for three or four weeks. Generally it seems that Asian movies open here and run for a week shortly before the DVD is released.

    I look forward to reading what you think of "The Raid: Redemption" on Webs of Significance.