The Raid

Fri, May 18, 2012, 01:00

Directed by Gareth Evans. Starring Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Setrya, Ray Sahetapy 18 cert, general release, 100 min

IT’S EARLY morning when rookie cop and expectant father Rama is sent into a crumbling Jakarta apartment block as part of a 20-man Swat unit.

The slum is home to untouchable drug lord Tama Riyadi, a narcotics lab and Tama’s veritable private army led by Andi, the brains of the outfit, and Mad Dog, a ruthless hitman who would “tear down walls for his boss”.

“Why us? Why today?” enquires one of the mostly doomed Swat team as they head toward mayhem and carnage.

Why indeed. Imagine the classic beat-’em-up sequence from Oldboy but with knives. Picture Rio Bravo with hammers and ultraviolence. Conjure Hard Boiled with mad Indonesian fighting skills. Think Ong Bak with hardcore weaponry. You’re still only halfway to visualising The Raid, a splendid new siege flick featuring mighty martial arts and deft conversation-stoppers like “Shut the fuck up or I’ll bleed you”.

Timing is everything in the movieverse. Just ask The Avengers. By delaying the film’s US release, Disney enjoyed a week of sky-high Euro-hype and enough expectation to propel the Marvel Greatest Hits package past the $200 million mark over its North American opening weekend. Just do the math, as our US chums might say.

Ever since the high-falutin’ heyday of Cahiers du Cinema, European critics are, generally speaking, more kindly disposed towards genre cinema. Contemporary European punters, meanwhile, are less inclined toward internet piracy than your average Midwestern Jim. Add up the discrepancies in reviews and piracy and it all works in favour of an action film.

The distributors of The Raid, alas, got its release dates arseways. If the movie had hit our continent first, it could have coasted by on tremendous reviews, fewer bootlegs and festival awards, including the Dublin Film Critics Circle’s pick for Best Film at JDIFF 2012. Sadly, by releasing in the US before Europe, the film got merely great reviews (83 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes) and has mustered just under $5 million at the box office.

That’s enough to ensure an incoming US remake and a sequel (The Raid: Retaliation, due next year), but Welshman Gareth Evans’s awesome Asian actioner shoulda, coulda been a bigger, brighter contender.