‘The Raid: Redemption’ a foreign action film striving for originality

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Critics hate the action genre because action movies usually carry very little meaning except explosions.

I have no problems with the action genre. I do take issue that many action movies tend to be lazily rendered. Just because you have more people being shot in the face than you have minutes in the film doesn’t necessarily make your film good.

“The Raid: Redemption” truly strives for originality. In fact, I think there’s probably only one explosion in the entire film and that doesn’t stop it from being awesome.

This foreign film follows an Indonesian SWAT team that is tasked with taking down the drug lord Tama Riyandi (Ray Sehetapy). This proves to be extremely difficult as there are thirty floors of henchman and tenants willing to go to extremes to protect their home. The film mainly focuses on the talented rookie Rama (Iko Uwais).

What I love about “The Raid” is that it doesn’t even attempt to have a compelling story line. The first five minutes of the movie establishes the plot then the audience is treated to two hours of gore, violence, and insanely choreographed martial arts.

I personally didn’t have a problem with the violence in “The Raid” because it is truly suspenseful and unpredictable. Unlike most action movies, I sincerely did not know who was going to live or die throughout the film.

Many of the scenes feel like they are shot in real time. Not in an annoying “found footage” way but the standoffs between the good guys and bad guys are excruciatingly long winded. The film is more content to let you squirm in your seat than to splatter gore on the screen.

There is gore in the film but it isn’t Quentin Tarantino levels of gore or anything. Many baddies are disposed in gruesome ways. The blood that is spilt, however, seems very realistic to the actual amount of blood that would be lost.

I liked the two different styles the film took to action scenes. Towards the beginning of the film there are more intense gunfights between the SWAT team and the gangsters.

The latter part of the film includes tightly choreographed martial arts sequences. Don’t get me wrong, I love martial arts but it didn’t have the suspense that the gunfights had.

The martial arts are dazzling to behold. The problem is they seem to lose the sense of reality that the gunfights held. It’s true I don’t know who is going to live and die still but the martial arts seem to be more fantasy oriented.

A couple of the martial arts sequences are also too long. Several guys fight each other and they keep fighting and fighting … and fighting.

I can’t fault the film too much for having long action sequences. Many action movies have brutally short fight scenes. Fight scenes take a lot of imagination in order to be original.

I will give “The Raid” one thing. It never bored me. Not for one second. The film had some minor flaws with pacing but is slightly inconsequential.

Not that it necessarily matters in a film like this, but the acting was pretty good.

Ray Sehetapy savors every malevolent pronouncement. Iko Uwais’s face and body captures the severe exhaustion and fear that is brought on by his tireless mission.

I love foreign films, but I know some are deterred by them. This film renders the cultural barrier irrelevant. It feels like any action film, albeit a quality one.