Hidden deep in the slums of Jakarta a run down apartment block is used as an ultra safe house for some of Indonesia's most vicious murderers and drug dealers. Regular cops are too afraid to attempt any arrests there; it's been a safe house for a decade. When an elite SWAT team led by Jaka (Joe Taslim) and including the charismatic martial artist Rama (Iko Uwais) sets out to secretly invade the safe house and kill or capture Tama (Ray Sahetapy), the sadistic drug lord who operates it, they believe they are on an official mission. They plan to set up base camp on the sixth floor, but a chance encounter with a spotter blows the team's cover and Tama quickly cuts off the power and isolates the team, with no way out. He also calls in the 'neighbours' ... but there is a surprise encounter for Rama which changes everything.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Welshman Gareth Huw Evans shows that a Westerner can also make standout martial arts movies: The Raid is an extraordinary endurance test for audiences, with silat (Indonesian) martial arts action that is more protracted, more violent and more authentically staged than anything I have seen in the genre.
The central plot is simple enough: a SWAT team approaches a notorious safe house in a Jakarta suburb in order to rid the wasp's nest of its biggest stinger, the vicious Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who has set up an elaborate CCTV system as part of his fortress protection plan. But the story has more layers, including the mystery of who authorised the raid, a surprise discovery by SWAT team member Rama (Iko Uwais) which has enormous implications for the raid, and some personal subplots.
The tension and pressure that Evans maintains is astonishing; the combination of a single, constrained location and excellent editing delivers high voltage. And although I don't usually like the freestyle, hand held camera work that is the current fashion, cinematographer Matt Flannery shows it can be effective in the right context and with some restraint where applicable.
Performances are excellent, notably Ray Sahetapi as the nasty Tama who can execute enemies while chomping his sandwich, and Iko Uwais as the dedicated SWAT officer whose formidable martial arts skills are frequently needed.
The fight choreography and execution are sensational: it is gruelling to watch, but astonishing in veracity. Unlike many action films, the fights are recorded in mid shots, giving them physical context. It's impossible to see the sleight of hand, and the routines are all fresh.
It's not a film for the squeamish, but it delivers more than just a punch; there is a fine sense of cinema and an engaging emotional element to drive it. Uwais and Evans worked together on the acclaimed debut feature Merantau (2008); this new outing proves that wasn't a fluke.
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RAID, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapi, Verdi Solaiman, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Starya
PRODUCER: Ario Sagantoro
DIRECTOR: Gareth Huw Evans
SCRIPT: Gareth Huw Evans
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matt Flannery
EDITOR: Gareth Evans
MUSIC: Aria Pravoqi, Joseph Trapanese, Fajar Yuskemal
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 22, 2012