Redemption remains a visceral martial arts masterpiece

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A decade since 2012 The Raid: Redemption and it’s still one of the best examples of clean, effective storytelling told through action. Simplistic in its premise, stripped down in its setting, and rarely trying to outgrow its grip, director Gareth Evans and his cast and crew provided a masterclass in action cinema. While contemporary action movies like John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road have become more important, The Raid: Redemption remains a seminal entry into the action movie canon that few movies have managed to replicate.

In its purest form, The Raid: Redemption is about an honest cop named Rama (Iko Uwais) who embarks on a dangerous mission to extract his criminal brother, Andi (Donny Alamsyah), before he gets into more trouble than he can handle. to imagine. In an operation that turns out to be unauthorized, Rama soon finds himself forced into a fight in an apartment complex run by an insidious drug lord and his two trusted men, Andi and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian ). What basically starts out as a siege movie quickly goes south and becomes a survival action movie with a tinge of horror and lots of gore.

It’s there that The Raid: Redemption becomes much more than his “One against 100” conceit suggests. Throughout the apartment complex, Rama doesn’t just fight gangsters and thugs – he fights people who can barely make ends meet. He’s someone whose moral code is immediately thrown out the window because of a corrupt cop’s decision that will end up costing the lives of many. When the drug kingpin in question, Tama (Ray Sahetapy) offers free rent to whoever kills the police in his building, all bets are off. Evans quickly establishes the desperation of the fighters and, by proxy, their stakes in each fight.

Image courtesy of XYZ Films

By refusing to let the apartment complex be just another seedy underbelly of a crowded city, The Raid: Redemption lets its setting be as nuanced as its protagonist. It’s also a film that isn’t afraid to revel in the grime of its setting; often punctuating its filthy hallways and poorly maintained rooms with graphic violence and visceral sound design. It’s the film’s way of often sacrificing weapons in exchange for punches and machetes that further immerse itself in its setting – a place where people aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Or as Mad Dog says while battling Jaka (Joe Taslim): “Pulling the trigger is like ordering takeout…”

Mad Dog features the rush that is still considered the focal point of The Raid: Redemption. The use of pencak silat for his martial arts allows for complex choreographies and impressive fights, but that’s not all Lowering offers. Even though Rama, Mad Dog, and Andi are all capable fighters, the others around them aren’t necessarily. That’s why moments like a machete slowly tapping a wall as he approaches Jaka and other hidden cops, or a machete stabbing through a fake wall in hopes of finding Rama and Bowo (Tegar Satrya) hidden in a doctor’s apartment, are engaging moments of tension that acknowledge the presence of other characters. It’s not just about kicking and punching – sometimes it’s about using your brain.

It also carries over to how Evans cuts the film and cinematographers Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono shoot it. There are few moments when the camera leaves the room in which a fight is taking place. This fight is the main attraction and it draws everyone towards it, including the camera. The action is cut cleanly, never interrupting the flow of action or cutting away from a landing shot. It’s the kind of benchmark for action editing that often gets overlooked in blockbuster sets, but here that’s kind of the point. The audience needs to feel every beating the characters endure, and the camera is fine-tuned to find the exact way to capture that feeling.

The Raid: Redemption
Image courtesy of XYZ Films

Another iconic shot from the film involves the gang of machete-wielding fighters confronting Rama in a claustrophobic hallway. The camera stays in the hallway, never leaving it during the entire fight, even when Rama delivers one of the film’s most brutal kills: dropping a young man’s neck at the bottom of a broken doorframe. What works so well in this scene is one of its scariest shots: a body lying in the hallway with no visibility inside the room. It is not followed by a shot of a bleeding person on the other side of the frame; it is followed by a close-up of Rama realizing what he has done to someone. A man so caught up in survival that he finds himself mercilessly killing people who have their whole lives ahead of them.

The Raid 2 would eventually develop Rama as a character and attempt to push back that moral code that dictates his every action, but that’s in The Raid: Redemption only the simplest version of this is presented. It’s a story told through action in a way that many action movies tend to forget. Why does this character fight so ruthlessly? Why is this fight shot from this perspective? Does this fight make sense to continue? It’s no surprise that other highly regarded modern action films also tend to tell a story through their action, such as Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and To fall. It keeps momentum and stakes going.

For many, there will be other action scenes and moments that will stand out. The inciting incident that alarms Tama of the police presence in her apartment building sends everything into a state of chaos; the moment when complete darkness is washed away by an itchy finger; Tama’s paranoia that leads to the unforgettable two-man climax fight scene that never gives up; or even for some it will be the score, which could be Joseph Trapanese’s, or the momentum-building score for the US exit achieved by both Trapanese and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. The blood splatter and maddening tension will delight horror fans while action junkies get the thrills they crave.

The Raid: Redemption
Image courtesy of XYZ Films

It goes without saying, The Raid: Redemption is an extremely special film for me. It was the action movie that got my wife into action movies. It introduced me to Indonesian genre cinema such as films by Timo Tjahjanto, Kimo Stamboel and Joko Anwar. Each time an actor Lowering appears in a movie, I see him the first day; the likelihood of me doing everything I can to see a sequel to the 2010s Horizon would have been out of the question if Uwais and Ruhian hadn’t been thrown into the surprisingly stellar beyond the horizon. And whenever an actor appears in a movie that I would have seen anyway, I always get unreasonably excited (Ruhian and Uwais appearing in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Taslim appearing in Fast & Furious 6for example).

Sadly, it’s also the action movie that set such a benchmark for choreography and tandem editing that it becomes a shame to see more than capable actors like Uwais and Taslim get slaughtered in movies like Thousand 22 and mortal combat, respectively. It’s ignoring the many other action movies not involving crew members that always disappoint me simply because The Raid: Redemption seems like such an easy reference text for action managers.

To me, The Raid: Redemption is just pound for pound an amazing achievement in action cinema. Thinking about it, it still feels like wall-to-wall action, but that’s what ends up being so engrossing every time I turn it on (which, at this point, is a bargain annual). It’s a terrific mix of gore, tension, and martial arts that stays grounded by never forgetting the characters. Ten years later, each blow hits as hard as the first time.

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