There are by my count 63 individually described fatalities in The Raid: Redemption and enough maimings to overwhelm a regional trauma center. The film is a sort of high-speed demolition derby, except with human actors. It is 100 percent highly concentrated whoop-ass, and it is sensational.
Like Die Hard, it follows the Aristotelian unities of action, place and time, following an Indonesian police SWAT team through an attack on a multistory tenement that houses the scurviest thugs on the archipelago. The battle rages up stairwells, down hallways, into individual apartments, out the windows and back inside again. Through group melees, one-on-one duels and every form of warfare in between, the action pauses only long enough to reload. Yet the film doesn’t stint on character and story. Director Gareth Evans, a Welsh expat making a name in Asian action cinema, knows how to tell a frenetic story with fastidious care.
Action star Iko Uwais plays Rama, a handsome, upright young cop who is at the point of the spear. He starts his day by tenderly caressing his pregnant wife and kneeling for his morning devotions before strapping on his tactical assault gear. His time on the prayer rug isn’t a political signal. He practices silat, an Indonesian martial-arts discipline that’s closely associated with the teachings of Islam as a form of character building.
As the film unfolds, we learn that he also has a noble personal motive for participating in the highly dangerous raid. He’s not an invulnerable Bruce Lee type, but more a cousin to Bruce Willis’ John McClane, tough as nails but human enough to break out in flop sweat.
The objective is to capture Tama (creepy Ray Sahetapy), a coldblooded drug lord whose chief enforcers are the brutal Mad Dog (stunt choreographer Yayan Ruhian) and brainy Andi (Doni Alamsyah). Amid spattery death by machine gun, machete, stair railing and filing cabinet, there are revelations and complications aplenty, with hidden corruption, secret family ties and innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. Every element fits (including the propulsive score by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park), adding richness to the story without slowing the relentless action.
There are stunt set pieces here that will be talked about for years, from a six-minute-long fight scene to battles that burst through walls and even floors. The movie is a kick that will leave your head ringing for days.
Cast: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy.
Writer/director: Gareth Evans.
Producer: Ario Sagontoro.
A Sony Pictures Classics release. Running time: 101 minutes. Strong brutal bloody violence throughout, and language. Opens Friday March 6 in Miami-Dade: South Beach. In Broward: Paradise. In Palm Beach: Palace, Boynton Beach.