Scene from The Raid: Redemption
Who needs a plot when you can have no-holds barred unrelenting action? Yes, Indonesian actioner The Raid: Redemption will bring out the fanboy in all of us and that's possibly the way Welsh writer and director Gareth Evans wants it. As long as that fanboy in you is like him - a fan of fist-to-cuff bone-crunching, blood-spraying, bullet-fulled well choreographed action.
It has been nothing but non-stop superlative accolades for Evans, as his made-in-Jakarta movie went around the international film festivals earlier this year, earning itself a cult following. So much so that an American version and two sequels are on the cards. Which I suppose is ulimate praise with the simplest of premise: A dedicated cop (Iwo Uwais) is part of a tactical SWAT-style police team that storms a 15-storey apartment building to apprehend crime boss Tama (Ray Sahetaphy). Along the way, they sustain heavy casualties until he realises their mission is not what it appears to be.
By keeping the film in Bahasa Indonesia, Evans nicely retains the South-east Asian flavour, and the ante is upped when the audience realises the real language in this movie is Indonesian martial arts, or Pencak Silat. This being Evans' second collaboration with new action man to watch Uwais, it is notches above their first movie, 2009's Merantau Warrior, which many dismissed as a poor cousin to Thailand's Ong Bak. But boy, are they showing off this time round with an orchestrated orgy of fists, blades, blood and violence. Evans doesn't bother much with story or character development, instead making his film a kind of brutal ballet, a la his reported hero John Woo. (The director has now gone on record to say he was thinking of 1998's Die Hard and 1976's Assault on Precinct 13 as inspiration for the genesis of his film.)
Admittedly, it might be all too much, what with a blur of ruthlessly brutal claustrophobic combat scenes that never really lets up. But there is no doubt that this is still a wild ride that pays homage to Woo and the likes of classic Hong Kong action films. Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, who plays villanous henchman Mad Dog, are a revelation to watch, especially during the hand-to-hand combat scenes. But one might wonder or worry what will become of the US version without them. Hopefully, it'll keep the spirit of this one: Working best as pure, unadulterated, and uncut must-see for action fans.