The first Raid film came almost out of nowhere, but before it was even watched, the talking point was it’s Indonesian, it’s Indonesian Pencak Silat martial art style and it’s directed by, a Welshman!?
Talk turned into stunned silence as before everyone’s eyes the most incredible display unfolded before them. On a budget that Pixar’s Andrew Stanton would scoff at (Mark Kermode podcast fans will know), Gareth Evans turned $1.1 million into something that many couldn’t forget. Fight scenes that no one had seen since Tony Jaa first appeared. Talking of which, where the hell has he gone!?!
Sure it was short on character development, but not many cared since the balletic fighting just blew everyone away.
Soon after, an American remake was announced (BOOOO!), but also a sequel (HURRAY!). Of course the first thing that spring to mind was, what was going to happen with getting famous and the inevitable budget increase. Would we loose the rawness and give way to silliness?
Well no, not even close. The budget only sprang to just over $4 million and this was in fact the movie Gareth originally started to film, but money problems forced him to shoot the tower block scenario and we ended up with the The Raid: Redemption.
Taking place just two hours after the end of that film, we see the star Rama, (Iko Uwais) being forced to go undercover to infiltrate a notorious Jakarta gang as a way of bringing down crooked cops which ties it to the first film.
To start though he needed a cover story and so was “arrested” in order to befriend Uco, the son of the prominent gang leader who is being held in prison. We soon then have our first fight in the tight confines of the prison toilets. Action which makes Jason Bourne’s fight in the the Bourne Ultimatum with Desh when they end up in the toilet looks like a game of slapsies.
What follows to be perfectly honest, is not the most original story. The son feels he’s undervalued by his ol’ dad and plans to make more of a name for himself. However, there is nothing wrong with it either. It’s not cringworthy at all, makes sense, and you get decent amount of human emotion and development
Rama is fully taken in by the gang and is sent on some debt collection runs along with Uco, which end up unsurprisingly, in a fight or two. What follows is what you saw in the first film… and then some. Without the confines of the small tower block corridors and rooms (or toilets), the fights get to breath a bit more.
What doesn’t happen, is you actually being able to breath. Such is the choreography your just laughing, wincing and enjoying what your seeing, no quite believing that each and every hit makes full contact. Yes, just about every hit is a real a hit, just painstakingly timed to avoid actually doing real damage.
Iko Uwais spent over half a year working with the stunt men in order to perfect the fight scenes and also befriend them, as what was to surely follow would push them to their limits with the inevitable missed timed hits.
The first film made incredible use of inanimate objects, which in your head means more ouch, since you of course know the punches to the head, body etc are pulled slightly. But heads hitting tables, walls, floors, cars, baseball bats, baseball balls, shelves, hammers, pots, pans, chairs, lights, bottles, glasses, cabinets and so on, looks so much more painful in these films.
In the past, it usually looked faked as you can see such weapons bend and give way. Not so in Gareth Evans’ world. They look very, VERY real. And very, VERY painful.
As we are in the open world, we also get out first car chase. This is first for Mr Evans and with the exception of speed, a brilliant one at that. We are far from talking about 100mph crashes. 15-25mph more like for the most part. But it’s the most realistic chase I have seen for a long, long time. It’s proper wheel to wheel bashing and incredible camera work and the inevitable human body hitting metal body.
So far, we’ve had lots of stupendous fights, inc a big nod to Kill Bill and the Crazy 88’s spectacular, minus swords. We also get a female fighter “Hammer Girl”in the vain of Kill Bill’s Gogo Yubari, only this time instead of a meteor hammer, we just get a claw hammer… times two. The destruction of bodies you get to see in a train scene is quite sensational all for the eye to see.
This is fully deserving of it’s 18 certificate. Hell, its quite amazing how the BBFC let it go almost untouched, save for a few frames. Back in the 1980’s, this would have NEVER, EVER seen the light of day. Wow, just wow.
Her guide and brother is “Baseball Bat Man”. A favoured weapon used of course, but one that you have never witnessed like this guy uses it. Sound truly deserves a mention here and the metal thwack rings in your ears and as mentioned, your not for a second taken out of the film by a floppy bat.
As in Redemption, we have two main fights really. One with our Rama facing off with both hammer and bat at the same time (holy crap) and our finale with “Andi”, played by Donny Alamsyah. Now, the boss fight in the first film with “Mad Dog” (Yayan Ruhian) was incredible.
He also make a return in this film, but not at all related. However I’m not sure how well it now stands with Andi’s fight. It is just, just, mind-blowing. Taking days and days and days to film, we have to adversaries going at each other like nothing you’ve seen before. It’s truly incredible.
At it’s Sundance Festival premier, it was shown completely uncut. Quite what was cut I do not know, but it ain’t a whole lot. What you do see, you really question what the point of cutting the odd frame here and there. There is also a shotgun head shot that unless you have seen the real life head shot in the “The Faces of Death” documentary, you have never seen one as real as this.
Given the seamless cut from real life person to a dummy, I have honestly, honestly never seen anything close to that documentary until now. Evidence 100 per cent given by the fact of the shocked laughter of the audience when it took place. I cannot think for one second the team thought it’d make the cut.
So, here we have the most enjoyable martial arts film since, well, Gareth’s last attempt. With Raid 3 already signed, I cannot wait for the next instalment. While there are rumours that Gareth is linked to be the producer of the US remake, yet again it’s going to be pointless.
There is NOTHING that warrants it. Subtitles are not that hard to follow or even need in these films, certainly the first one anyway and I highly doubt the US health and safety bullshit will allow for similar fight sequences.
So get your backside into your local cinema and see this film. It’s one of the best martial arts film ever made. I’d even call it my favourite Asian action film ever made. I need another viewing of Hard Boiled to confirm, but I’m pretty certain this tops the list.
Review by invisiblekid