Garth Evans, Welsh born director of the new Indonesian action/ martial arts film The Raid, knows how to stage some great action. His first work, Merantau, was very watchable and it seemed as if Iko Uwais (his star, master of Silat) was on his way to becoming the next Tony Jaa. Unfortunately, the hype about The Raid is as excessive as his use of elbowing people in the back while they try for a take down. It’s pretty cool, but we can’t figure out what exactly makes it so noteworthy.
At first the film builds a decent amount of tension and the timing is spot on, making the viewer cringe with the feeling of anticipation Tarantino gave us in Inglorious Bastards. There’s some decent gun-fu, improvised explosions, and a few crazy kills. These shots place The Raid in the “must check out on Netflix” category, but not quite in the “get the gang together and lets meet at the theater” category.
Some of the typical flaws you might find in any fight flick are here and are a bit distracting: Why isn’t he picking up any of the weapons all over the floor? Why is that other guy waiting to attack in the one vs many fights? The scoring is also terrible, spoiling the flow of the action and peaking before the final blow is dealt. It’s as if the composer really hated the idea of his audience being surprised at all.
At one point we were able to predict what moves we’re coming next, as if Evans (or Uwais and his team) ran out of techniques and tried re-remixing their own work within a single film. Elbow to the knee, whirl around and knee to the head… Uwais does a fair job and moves really well, but quickly you can tell he is more fighter than stuntman. This limits the entertainment value of what is essentially an hour long fight scene with a brief setup attached to it.
Our other complaint is that the women in this film (of which there are nearly zero) are depicted as weak and sick. Evans should take some cues from the Chinese and Thai martial arts film scenes (and the US in some cases) and grow up a bit when it comes to depicting female characters. We would much rather see women getting in on the killing action than lying in bed, weak, pregnant, or addicted to drugs.
With Trent Reznor tweeting about it and all of the cool kids lining up to see it, we had hoped for more from The Raid. Action fanboys and MMA kids will love it. Those who prefer their violence served up with substance can pass. For long time genre fans, here’s hoping TYG2 (which has Jija Yanin and Tony Jaa) is as good as it should be.