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Add my voice to the chorus of praise for THE RAID: REDEMPTION, the Gareth Evens-Iko Uwais collaboration that opened in Boston last week. I’ve seen it twice already, and my respect for what they’ve accomplished here has grown with each viewing. The story is mythic, the execution both primal and layered. If this is the first martial arts film you ever see, you’ll be blown away. If it’s the 5,000th, you’ll appreciate all the references and tweaks on genre tropes, and you’ll also be blown away.

I have to confess that I’ve always been one of those snobs who says, “The only people who really know how to shoot and edit a fight scene are the old school Hong Kong guys!” So Evans has proved me wrong. I don’t know if he ever practiced any of the arts, but he does what I previously have only seen the best Hong Kong people do, that is, make the camerawork and the action a seamless whole. He brings you inside the fights. Most of the action footage is handheld, tightly framed on the combatants and staying with them. The scenes have the immediacy of a Youtube video, but one composed with a painterly eye. Periodically the camera locks down for one of the jaw-dropping money shots, the bodies lit like a Renaissance masterpiece. Light and darkness battle in the Jakarta slum, and from the shadows, the camera’s eye picks out the gleam of sweat and blood and metal, highlights sparking off chains and gun barrels and blades.

Reviewers who have complained about the violence are missing the point. This is a hero story. What makes a hero, in Gareth Evans’ world? Faith, discipline, devotion to family and friends, and a determination to do his job. These are the qualities we see in the young cop Rama, played by Uwais. His enemies are characterized by faithlessness and paranoia. Martial arts films traditionally emphasize the righteousness of the hero, so then the question is, how badass does someone have to be to get the hero to cut loose? The answer is, very, very badass. Only in the most dire circumstances can the hero show the full extent of his ability. Of course the violence is exaggerated. Think of it as a metaphor, an allegory about slaying inner demons.

Yayan Ruhian (left) and Joe Taslim  in THE RAID: REDEMPTION.

The cast is uniformly excellent. Joe Taslim (Jaka) plays Rama’s team commander, a mentor and role model for the young rookie. Tegar Satrya (Bowo) is the comic sidekick. Pierre Gruno (Wahyu) is a weasel, and Ray Sahetapy (Tama) and Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog) are the most prominently featured psychopaths. Taslim, Ruhian, Doni Alamsyah (who plays cold-blooded Andi), and Uwais are the standout martial artists, but the whole stunt crew deserves a big round of applause. I’m not familiar with silat – what we see here is fast and brutal.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION has been compared to video games and zombie movies, but only focusing on the action shortchanges the story. It’s about digging deep and getting the job done, even when the shitstorm is flying around you. We’ve all had days like that. Rama is an ordinary hero, just ramped up a few levels. He outsmarts as well as outfights the bad guys. And he ends up making the good guys look really, really good. That’s not a bad message to take home after the mayhem comes to an end.

I’m so pumped about this movie, I asked my friend and kung fu brother Mike Nuell to contribute his thoughts on the film:

“Action stripped down to it’s absolute core.  This is the RESERVOIR DOGS of the genre.  Don’t miss THE RAID: REDEMPTION in theaters— you’re going to want to see it more than once.  Handsdown the best action flick since Die Hard 1.  Gareth Evans is the John Woo of his generation.  See this film.  Spread the word.”

So there you have it. Two longtime fans, two raves. And THE RAID: REDEMPTION, against huge odds (it’s in Indonesian, with no name stars), is finding its audience in the US. The release bumped up to 176 theaters this past weekend, and it’s now #11 on the charts. Watch for a position in the top ten next week. This movie is on fire.

Update 4/11: THE RAID: REDEMPTION is now listed at #14 for last weekend, but it’s about to open in a bunch of new theaters on Friday. I still think it will make the top ten sometime soon. I added a Youtube video below suggested by phrygian – it’s an amazing live demo by a very young Iko Uwais and his team.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION trailer:

Iko Uwais and his team in 2006:

Check out Iko Uwais’ silat form in this video:

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  • http://twitter.com/francisrossi John Firth

    Aside from recent Thai films, Drive was the last film I saw that had action to rival Hong Kong, and that came out in 1997. Really looking forward to this.

  • Indonesiarayas2

    what? 11th??? the last time i heard in news here in indo is 20th…  damn fast…
    im craving for my second time to watch this film… and my fucking job demands even more time these days…

    at first i kinda afraid people will mock this movie because its subtitled and pretty much minimum plotted… but the reaction seemed great… 11th, i have no idea… even iko with merantau is pretty much nobody in indonesia and seeing them like this makes me relieved… they get what they deserved…

    not mentioning iko even pop his knee in the process of designing the choreography… a guy that got poked at his throat with a baton, the one who hurts his back at falls, the cameramen who nearly got his eyeballs stabbed by a flying machetes (fake but still its a fucking flying things that have a pointed ends..), the pain and struggle they have trough making the film…

  • Perantau

    the secret of the awesome fight scenes is the cast of The Raid are from real-life martial arts experts…iko uwais is a silat master..joe taslim (jaka) is a national judo champion..the guy who play mad dog (yayan ruhian) is a silat master, he even trained the special squad who guards the President..even the nameless thug who plays the leader of the machete gang is a national gold medal winner of Tarung Derajat (an Indonesian mixed martial arts style) -his real name is Godfred Orindeod by the way-

    a good script + real-life martial arts experts = ONE HELL OF AN ACTION MOVIE  :D

  • Anonymous

    You should choose another video of him. This’s not his best performance.

  • Jean

    Do you have any suggestions? As I said, I don’t know the art, so I’m not a good judge.

  • Jean

    I wondered who the Scary Machete Guy was! Thanks for the information.

  • Jsolo

    Thank goodness this is actually playing in my dumpy town. I’m taking my girlfriend to see this on her birthday (Friday).

  • Jsolo

    Thank goodness this is actually playing in my dumpy town. I’m taking my girlfriend to see this on her birthday (Friday).

  • Anonymous

    i think this’s better http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5UOC6ZK1O0
    and this is his performance with his team http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbJkgycEJT0&feature=related

  • Indonesiarayas2

     and an architect… well gareth said that…

  • Hugh

    The remake will not be as good as this version because Hollywood has too many safety precautions. For insurance reasons, actors are not allowed to do anything too risky, so the action scenes will be made as safe as possible with the use of cgi, camera tricks, and stunt doubles. Also, Hollywood doesn’t make movie stars out of real martial artists anymore.

  • Lima Bintang55

    Hi just wanna to ask when this movie will show in Hong Kong, I’ve been waiting for so long. thanks.

  • Mademan2755

    Went and saw this movie last weekend, it is so badass and you will want to see it more then once

  • Tmannernly

    The first complaint I have is that everyone seems to run out of ammo or just decide to stop using guns at the same time. There are one or two pistols around at the end, but generally they just get forgotten about when it’s time to start hand-to-hand. Another problem is that the boss has the whole place under camera surveillance but the cops sometimes are able to wander the halls without being spotted. I agree the fights were generally awesome, but I just had to laugh a little at the way guys got pounded on for minutes and didn’t show much effect in the following scenes. I liked the movie, it’s just that I don’t think it’s the absolute pinnacle that most others seem to say.

  • Theusurper

    when will this be showing in the uk please

  • Hugh

    May 18

  • Flying Panda

    Got a view at the theater opining week and “Hell Yeah!” This movie contained one of the longest fight scenes I’ve seen in a while, since Flash Point (i think) good review Jean, Thanks. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000708717405 Adriano Mendes

    Awesome movie. I’ve watched more than 5 times.

  • Samseed

    The raid is one of the best action movies ever made, and  my favourite movie of the year so far.  If you are a martial arts action fan and you  haven’t seen it, then  quite frankly what are you waiting  for?  Go see this film, it will blow your mind! Its an instant classic.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BFLVZZMHXTFF2ZMMU2ZM4UK2KE Waldo

    this movie is so overrated.. sure there were many action scenes and it looked pretty good most of the time, but imo, after a while their moves get old (no new stuff, only pencak i assume?).

    guys fighting on the ground but none of them know ANYTHING about grappling at all or the fact that if you immobilize the lone person in a 2 vs. 1, you have a huge advantage over a standing fight 2 vs. 1.