The Raid (Gareth Huw Evans, 2012)

What's it about? A SWAT team, including rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais), are on a mission to raid the formidable tower block lair of a drug baron and take him out. Naturally, things go tits up almost immediately and the team become trapped in the building with only one option. Fight their way out. And when I say fight, I mean fight.


Is it any good? Every so often, a new brand of martial arts makes the East-West crossover. We've had Bruce Lee's serious Jeet Kune Do in the 70s, Jackie Chan's action-comedy kung-fu in the 80s and the graceful wire-fu of the 00s. Now, The Raid brings something new to the action table with Pencak silat, an impressively vicious Indonesian martial art, which utilises fists, knees, knives, machetes and downright sneaky tactics to eye-watering, bone-crunching effect. I'm sure these guys didn't actually stab each other, but this looks like it really hurts. Favouring long takes over frantic editing, Evans allows us to fully appreciate the mayhem as it unfolds and marvel at the astonishing agility of the performers, whilst Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda provides a pounding soundtrack to accompany the pounding of heads. Throw in a liberal sprinkling of shootings, explosions, stabbings and the occasional crowd-pleasing running-up-a-wall-back-flip move and you've got some of the most violent, bloody and breathless action sequences to come along in a long while. And if you can't get excited about mindless carnage like that, then what can you get excited about?

Two things count against it becoming an action classic, though. Baby-faced Iko Uwais may display some serious arse-kicking ability, but lacks the screen charisma that made the likes of Lee, Chan and Chow Yun-Fat such stars (don't tell him I said that, though). Second, this may have minimal plot, but what little there is still contains some clunkingly awful developments which will make you wince as much as the violence. There will be those who argue plot is incidental in such an insanely delirious action film, but to square off against the big boys in the genre you need brawn and brains, and whilst the plot of The Raid isn't totally dim-witted, it does give the impression of a story that's been kung-fu kicked in the head a bit too often. Still, if you want to see a man get his back snapped on a concrete banister or a mental bloke kick seven shades of shite out of two opponents, despite having been stabbed in the neck with a broken fluorescent tube, then look no further.


I don't trust you. What do others think? The very fact that a subtitled Indonesian martial arts film has made it into multiplexes here should tell you it has made waves in the industry already, with big success at film festivals like Sundance and Toronto, and favourable comparisons being made with the likes of Hard Boiled and Die Hard. It's not as good as either of those classics, but the action really is a cut above anything we've seen in mainstream cinema recently, so expect Hollywood to do a flying kung-fu jump onto the Pencak silat bandwagon ASAP. Don't be put off by the subtitles, by the way. Kicks, punches, breaking bones and fountaining geysers of jugular blood sound the same in any man's language.

Anything else I should know? So, Gareth Huw Evans doesn't seem like a traditional Indonesian name, does it? That's because he's Welsh and up until recently had only made a couple of low-budget documentary films, before drifting back to his 9 to 5 office job in Cardiff. However, when his Indonesian wife set up the chance for him to make a documentary about Pencak silat, he took the plunge, moved to Jakarta and decided to follow that up with a feature film. His first attempt was Merantau, which got criticised by silat fans for being too soft. So, he went back to the drawing board with Uwais and stunt team and The Raid is the result. A self-confessed fan of the action genre, he checks off the influences on The Raid: Lee's The Big Boss and Chan's Drunken Master (the mix of martial arts), Hard Boiled (the Mad Dog character), Assault on Precinct 13 (the meanness) and, of course, Die Hard (the setting) . Well, if you're going to do this sort of thing right, you might as well borrow from the best. Expect a sequel.

What does the Fonz think? Everybody was kung fu fighting.....

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