Violence in cinema is reaching ever higher levels. Audience’s thirst for blood and gore seems to be unquenchable. What’s the solution? The Raid: Redemption answers that question with more violence – but in a different form. American cinema is rich in digital excess. Our action movies rely so much on computerized special effects and magical disappearing wires that we’ve forgotten how physics work in real life. We’ve lost the true art of violence in cinema.
The Raid: Redemption is not American. In fact, it’s very un-American. It features the kind of storyline and character development that Hollywood did ad nauseum 20 years ago. The production values are typical for foreign cinema, and the movie is so full of clichés you may find yourself wondering if it is trying to make fun of something. But while all these thoughts are racing through your mind, they suddenly disappear when the violence starts. This film channels the emotional power of the best Bruce Lee films, the gritty edge of Jet Li’s films, and the pure audacity of some of Jackie Chan’s finest moments. The Raid: Redemption is an ode to martial arts films of the past, yet it never feels repetitive and always seems to be heading somewhere new and different.
Credit, of course, must go to the man dishing out the pain. In reality there are several talented stars, but Iko Uwais shines above them all. Not only is he talented in the way of martial arts, but his acting and emotion is such that he always has the audience’s attention. Very few foreign actors before him have possessed such a charisma necessary to make it big on the silver screen. Of course, this is only one film, but you have to wonder if today’s internet-capable target audience will help to speed up his market saturation. The film itself may not break new ground, but the artistic qualities of its most violent moments are good enough to steer the genre in a new and enticing direction.
Story: A group of police officers are on a mission to capture a infamous crime lord. The problem lies in the fact that his hideout is an apartment complex, where the tenants pay their rent with loyalty to this boss. While the reasoning and motivation behind the mission is unclear at first, it quickly becomes apparent that things aren’t as straight-forward as they first appeared…Okay (17/25)
Acting: It’s difficult to judge actors when you don’t know the language that they are speaking in, but Iko Uwais as the main character does a tremendous job of getting the audience on his side right from the start. He is authentic, expressive, and just about the only character not written straight out of a 90’s buddy cop movie. Most importantly though, it’s his physical prowess and excellent control in combat that makes him invigorating to behold. Everyone else seems to be too overdramatic or suspicious right from the start. Okay (19/25)
Direction: Director Gareth Evans manages to create some memorable moments, especially in the movie’s later fighting sequences. Even if he doesn’t necessarily know what to do when there aren’t bullets ripping through walls or necks being broken, he still handles the film competently. The film tries to be gritty and dirty, but Gareth never gets the balance between dark and light correct. Also, even though the story isn’t too complex, the way the film is structured makes some moments murky. Still, the focus is on the action, and in those moments this movie is sharp. Okay (19/25)
Visuals/X-Factor: The highlight of this movie, if it is not clear already, are the numerous and lengthy hand-to-hand combat sequences that occur in the second half. They keep the otherwise generic plot interesting and are a welcome relief from the repetitive gunfight sequences that proliferate the first half of the film and seemingly every other action movie to come out since 1980. Most of the entertainment in the martial arts sequences comes from the often shockingly violent outcomes and innovatively cringe-worthy techniques. Above all, this movie will be remembered and watched over and over again for that very reason. Everything else is a throw-away. Good (23/25)
Rating: (78/100) = C+ (Average)
What’s Good: It’s been awhile since violence has been this entertaining, rising action star Iko Uwais struts his stuff.
- What’s Bad: Lackluster performances by both the actors and the director, questionable storytelling, you may find yourself laughing at the obvious and frequent clichés.
Summary: Breaking bones never sounded so crisp.