4.5 out of 5
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! But all in a good way.
Watching The Raid brings back the memory of high school hours spent on playing Counter Strike in internet cafes or playing Time Crisis in video game arcades. Back in the 80s Indonesia produced many action films and catapulted names such as Barry Prima, Advent Bangun, and George Rudy into in-house action stars. In the early 90s the general Indonesian film industry experienced a coma and was replaced by bombardment of soft porns. Now we’re still experiencing some upsies and downsies. Good Indonesian films are out there, but bad Indonesian films have more running time. The Raid comes as a breath of fresh air in Jakarta (if it is possible). I know this film has won many awards from international film festival, but then again one musts see before one can review. Welsh director Gareth Evans first came into Indonesian cinema’s limelight with his film “Merantau”. As an expat living in Indonesia his first Indonesian film was filled with romanticism, about the image of a certain Indonesian ethnic group in front of mainstream audience. Now thankfully Evans ditches the philosophical attempt and focuses on punching heads. The premise is simple: get in, kill people or at least spurt a lot of blood, get out. It is a complete no brainer in which a proper action film should be. A good action film should not try to be cool or smart, because it will end up silly and ehhh (Steven Seagal, anybody?). It should focus on the nitty gritty body contacts, dirt on the face, no wire or CGI. In which The Raid succeeds. A rundown apartment building functions as headquarter of Tama, a ruthless crime lord. A SWAT team is deployed to take him down under the order of Lt. Wahyu. The characterisation is fitting. Iko Uwais, aka Evans’ muse plays Rama, a SWAT team member and the main character. Iko Uwais is actually a silat champion and that specific martial art is the one this film particularly focuses on. He moves gracefully in front of the camera, but REALLY needs to brush up his speech. Some lines coming from his mouth seem stiff, although he relaxes in the middle of the film. Indonesia’s judo athlete and SEA Games champion, Joe Taslim, plays Jaka the SWAT leader who finally realises that his team is sent to Tama’s den as sacrificial lamb. Donny Alamsyah plays Andi, one of Tama’s head honcho who appears cynical and carries the air of suburban boy turns bad, in which his character is. These three actors, as beautiful as they are, perhaps still need to fix up their eloquency. As mentioned before Iko Uwais sounds a bit stiff here and there, Joe Taslim speaks too fast while yelling orders to his men, Donny Alamsyah seems fine and actually speaks the way Jakartans do (we slurr a little bit).
Senior actor Ray Sahetapy plays Tama the prime baddie. As the one of the only two actors who have professional acting experiences, he carries his character with nonchalance and brings back his reputation as Indonesia’s original bad boy. There is Pierre Gruno who plays his role as Lt. Wahyu ever so subtly. Wahyu at first appears meek and uncertain but slowly shows his true colours as a megalomaniac officer who finally sees he cannot fight the bigger power: corruption. Yayan Ruhian who is also the fight coordinator along with Iko Uwais plays Mad Dog. The most interesting character in the film. He whoops the arses of the three cute main actors with such ease and brutality, even manages to throw serious punches, kicks, everything with a fluorescent lightbulb sticking out of his neck.
The Raid is a proper action flick that manages from appearing cheesy and cliche. The lack of half star is for not having flowy dialogues in some part. But well done indeed.