The Raid: Redemption
Pt. Merantau Films
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
At the height of its popularity, the high-octane action film was primarily attached to names like Bruce, Sylvester, Arnold, Jean-Claude and several others. And even though they’re past their prime, they keep trying occasionally with another film.
In the new 21st century version of the high-octane action film, the cast is lean, mean, and young, and in the case of The Raid: Redemption, totally unfamiliar and speaking an foreign language. The Raid: Redemption is from Indonesia, with subtitles, and is one hour and forty minutes of wall-to-wall martial arts duels, shootouts, explosions, maimings, machete massacres and more, none of which gives you a minute to breathe or even figure out who’s doing what to whom, because it really doesn’t matter. The whole point is to raise the testosterone levels in the target audience for these films.
In the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, a vicious crime lord and drug dealer has taken over an abandoned fifteen-story apartment building, and makes it available as a safe haven for those who would do his bidding. An elite 20-man swat team is about to invade the premises with the mission of taking this guy in custody, or out, permanently.
The Raid: Redemption is the third film by director Gareth Evans, a Welshman who seems to be intent as using this as his resume and calling card for those who will produce hit films for the world cinema arena. In that respect, he’s succeeded. The film is one long grizzly set piece that is as carefully choreographed as any classic ballet. Evans has a real knack in setting up shots that dazzle and thrill. Add to his list of credits the fact that he also wrote the screenplay and edited the film, he should now be immensely employable.
For its intended audience, The Raid: Redemption is pushing all the right buttons, with fans of the genre enthusing over its prowess. It has even managed to get a fair share of positive reviews from American critics, who usually don’t warm up to these films.
However, if you don’t enjoy constant combat and savage violence on the most intense of levels, stay far, far away…even though it’s foreign with English subtitles, and is also playing at the art houses alongside the plexes. The triple-threat work of Gareth Evans, along with his cinematographer (who I hope got combat pay), and a capable cast, a few of whom deliver really good performances, says that this film does have merit for devotees of destruction. But ultimately, it’s way too much of a “good” thing, as the relentless repetition grows tiresome and will likely have you looking at your watch wondering when it will be over.
It’s also another example of what’s wrong with our rating system in this country. The Raid: Redemption, containing some of the goriest maimings yet committed to film, sails through with the standard R rating. On the other side of the fence, the contemplative documentary Bully has to jump through all kinds of hoops to get its rating changed because of just two uses of the “f-word,” which the ratings board deems as two too many for a PG-13. But the R rating would, in theory, keep Bully away from the audience that needs to see it the most.
The very R-rated The Raid: Redemption is now showing at the Esquire Theatre on a regular schedule, and is still on screen for one late evening showing only at both the Rave West Chester and Regal Deerfield.