Twitch's Review Roundup: THE RAID: REDEMPTION
"I hope you guys love violence." -- Gareth Evans, director.
Evans introduced his film at SXSW with those words, speaking to hundreds of people gathered at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, to see what all the hype was about. As I tweeted afterward, the screening blew the roof off the venerable venue, with the crowd erupting into spontaneous applause and cheering multiple times, echoing the thunderous reactions it received when it opened Toronto's Midnight Madness section and played at the famed Sitges Film Festival.
Of course, the film is not for everyone. (Notably, Roger Ebert.) And, in the interests of full disclosure, Todd Brown, Twitch's founder and editor-in-chief, had what he described as "a minor hand" in the development of the project and receives credit as one of the executive producers, something he revealed in his very first article on it in November 2010.
Nonetheless, it's what's on the screen that counts, and as someone who has grown weary of action films made by directors without the faintest idea of how to compose an action sequence, I was completely surprised and delighted by the fluid choreography of the fight scenes, the framing of the shots -- imagine Iko Uwais as Gene Kelly with a machete -- and Evans' tight editing, which never sacrifices clarity for the sake of speed.
If you only see one violent action movie a year, this is the one to see. While the fight scenes might blur into one for non-action fans, each sequence displays a different style of attack and defense, which I appreciated more on a second viewing. My only complaint is that I did become a little impatient toward the end with all the fighting, but that's because the dramatic undertones, as stereotypical as they might appear, made me want to see how the character conflicts would be resolved.
We've published four reviews; here are brief excerpts from each, starting with Ryland Aldrich's in the hours after the film had its world premiere in Toronto:
"As the title suggests, The Raid centers around an elite police unit's attack on a Jakarta crime lord's heavily fortified apartment block headquarters. Things go awry from the very start and the team finds themselves scattered across a number of floors with hordes of bad guys around every corner. ... For all accounts, Iwais is the first international action star to fight on screen in the Indonesian style of Silat. This is very fast kicks and punches to the entire body; elbows to temples, kicks to knees, chops to throats, throws, catches, rolls, snaps -- breathe! You have simply never seen anything this awesome."
(Read Ryland's entire review.)
Andrew Mack also saw the world premiere screening and published his review shortly thereafter.
"Very early in the introduction of characters and story in Gareth Huw Evans' new action martial arts extravaganza The Raid it not only becomes very clear to the viewer who the bad guy is, and that he is evil, full capital letters EVIL, but that this is a darker, leaner and meaner Evans and he means to take no prisoners. ... And despite the great bounding energy of the direction and camera work Evans is no fool and understands the sometimes even in a high octane actioner like The Raid that less is more. He does marvelous work drawing out unsettling moments of violence by not really showing us anything at all. ... Evans, Uwais and crew have done it again! They didn't just knock it out of the park. They knocked it unconscious and threw the bodies over the outfield wall where no one will ever find them."
(Read Mack's entire review.)
Guillem Rosset caught the film in Sitges about a month later and had a similar reaction.
"The film's setup is pretty straightforward. There are no unnecessary explanations nor does the director has any pretensions of overdressing the package. Gareth Evans knows very well what he wants to deliver and how he wants to do it. It's a simple plot, it features a wonderful setting for an action film and delivers just the necessary dramatic weight for the audience to care for the characters without getting ridiculous nor burdening the action. ... Iko Uwais has definitely stepped up to a new level, moving from young promise to consolidated star. Being a martial arts flicks fan for a long time, it's been quite some time since I experienced something like this in a movie theater."
(Read Guillem's entire review.)
Finally, Australian correspondent Hugo Ozman saw the film recently in advance of its theatrical opening.
"Compared with Merantau, the first film collaboration between director Gareth Evans and lead actor Iko Uwais, The Raid has less drama but much, much more action. The few dramatic scenes are essential for plot development and kept relatively short. On the other hand, the exciting action scenes are long and feature numerous impossibly amazing punches and kicks, as well as the use of various other deadly weapons. ... Watching The Raid is like riding an out-of-control roller coaster for a whole hour and a half. It is nauseatingly intense and heart-stoppingly thrilling."
(Read Hugo's entire review.)
Under its original title, The Raid opens today in Australia and New Zealand, and tomorrow in Indonesia. As The Raid: Redemption, it opens in limited release in Canada and the U.S. (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C.) tomorrow before expanding further in the weeks ahead.