Thursday 19 October 2017

Stylish but brutal Raid on the senses

Paul Whitington

the raid

(18, general release, 101 minutes )

Director: Gareth Evans Stars: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah

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Though some older critics in the US have been spooked by its ultra-violence, Gareth Evans' Welsh/Indonesian crime drama The Raid is being talked up by many as one of the best thrillers in recent years.

It's certainly one of the bloodiest, because after a team of special forces cops enter a criminal stronghold in central Jakarta, the bodies start piling up so fast it's impossible to keep count.

Though he only has a couple of low-budget nasties to his credit so far, Evans clearly knows his eastern cinema and the stylistic influence of Asian masters like Park Chan-wook are evident in this ultra-brutal but remarkably fluid film.

Outside the requirements of its minimalistic plot, there is little or no character development or nuance in The Raid, and even the protagonist, Rama (the fast and cat-like Iko Uwais), is a high-kicking cypher.

But if you don't mind a little extreme violence, I would highly recommend seeing Evans' film, which is a totally gripping and sense-assaulting experience. In fact, it's a bit like being in a computer game, with Rama as your avatar.

He's part of a special forces team sent into a dingy and forbidding Jakarta apartment block that's the lair of a master criminal called Tama Riyadi.

Their orders are to subdue his retinue and kill or capture Tama, but once the team get inside, Rama realises that something is amiss.

This is not a properly sanctioned mission and soon he and a small group of colleagues face a desperate battle to survive as they're chased around the upper floors.

What The Raid lacks in drama and substance, it more than makes up for in visual imagination and sheer momentum. In fact, I don't think I've ever watched a film with as much murderous, unstoppable, irresistible forward motion as this one.

Using the mesmerising Pencak Silat Indonesian martial art, the cops and criminals chase and throw each other through floors and ceilings, down stairs and over balconies with the grace and style of psychopathic ballet dancers.

The film is executed with wonderful, ruthless fluency, and some of the fight scenes are extraordinary, especially those involving Yayan Ruhian, a martial arts expert who plays the villain's lunatic henchman and also coordinated many of the stunts and battle scenes.

Those fights go on a bit, though, and feature such moments of grand unpleasantness that I would recommend seeing The Raid with an empty stomach.

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