The Raid Review
"The Raid", PT. Merantau Films, 2011
A creative homage to not only the genre's eastern origins but also the westernisation of said genre, this film recognises its boundaries in terms of budget and the meaning it can explore and understands that it does not need to explore its themes in great depth to be enjoyable, making it one of the most entertaining films I've seen in recent memory with some of my favourite action sequences I've experienced to date.
This film, although perhaps as a result sloppy in terms of structure, focuses on presenting the pure, masculine adrenaline of action. Whilst this is streamlined with plot contrivances, unexplored characters and a pretty binary sense of conflict that frames the story, preventing the room for emotional attachment or any understanding of the dark underbelly of society that this building represents, this is more than made up for by the engagingly animated sense of pace. This is brilliant in allowing Evans to incorporate satisfying stylistic variation that outlines his appreciation for the sense of spectacle that moves audiences. This can be seen with the build-up of a primal sense of urgency that is added to the stripped-back tense nature of the aesthetic. The treatment towards the performances slowly become slowly become more rugged and eventually brutally animalistic, enabling the glaring tangents the plot takes to feel rewarding and constantly engaging. The direction towards the archetypal choice of characters are also refreshingly stripped-back. Although presenting a window into the personal life of Rama, the director understands the self-contained world that this character exists in, and so rather than carefully crafting the human side of the Anime-inspired cartoon character he personifies, he is presented as a admirable bad-ass on a mission against evil - what he brings with his wit also highlights a self-reflective angle to his character that perfectly borders on parody. The relentlessness of Mad Dog is also a joy to watch, embodying the beating heart of this building by playing with his prey. Whilst one can read into his this may reflect the manipulation of the good-natured weak to cower towards evil, an idea that is touched on occasionally, this film instead wants you to enjoy the experience as a passive spectator. This is brilliantly structured by the juxtaposition between muddiness of the mise en scene and the raw energy of the choreography of the set-pieces, the latter of which has a perfect balance between a biting sense of grit and movement to present the incredible acrobatics of these martial artists. The dimension of these fight scenes is a brilliant example of the integration of the eastern notion of purity regarding the art form and the western Hollywood-style feel of the cinematography, coming together harmoniously.
Overall, I found the organic, unrefined feeling this film brings contagious, presenting a new sense of depth to the thrill that the genre serves to bring.