I said goddamn. If action movie buffs were concerned that the action genre was dying on its bed, then director Gareth Evans just stabbed it in the heart with adrenaline and revived it for a new audience. “The Raid Redemption” courtesy of Indonesia is one of the most frantic and ballistic action films I’ve ever seen, and director Gareth Evans delivers an action movie buffet of kicks, punches, and gashes that will leave audiences pumping their fists anxiously from beginning to end.
Iko Uwais plays rookie cop Rama, a fast and skilled young officer who has just been assigned to an elite squad of special officers who have been sent to raid a run down apartment complex that’s built like a fortress. Inside the multi-storied building lies some of the most ruthless and vicious criminals and dregs of society imaginable, and they’ve been sent to infiltrate the belly of the beast and extract the leader of the almost cult-like gang of killers named lord Tama Riyada. Watching them on his various monitors, the plan to sneak in and blow out of the complex is foiled when nothing goes as planned and the group of officers are discovered and attacked mercilessly at all ends by the endless horde of apartment residents whom will stop at nothing to slaughter the unit and please lord Tama. Now it’s up to Rama and his dwindling team of officers to find Tama and use him as leverage to escape the fortress.
Or else be fed to the dogs of the building, all of whom are thirsty for blood and are especially skilled in their machetes. “The Raid Redemption” is a slow boil action thriller that takes its time in the first twenty minutes to completely exposit what we’re supposed to be seeing and how it’s all supposed to be accomplished. From the outset this seems like a simple snatch and grab mission that anyone can accomplish with enough fortitude, but it quickly turns in to a Bay of Pigs, where these men suffer from violent rebuttals from an over protective community who seek sanctuary among the walls of this tenement under the thumb of Tama. Most of the film is presented with a frantic urgency that makes every moment these men are alive another second where they have to fear for their lives and scurry through the orifices of this building like rats.
Uwais is fantastic as the inadvertent hero of the piece who does whatever is necessary to ensure his own survival and is intent on getting home to his wife and soon to be born child, facing down every single threat this fortress throws at him from every corner he turns. Evans thankfully rarely uses hyper kinetic editing, instead choosing to zero in on the fight sequences in their bone crunching glory revealing a hero who will bring down the devil himself to make it home, and an army of men that will hack anyone up to ensure their home remains in tact. There are a barrage of incredible and brutal fight sequences, all brilliantly staged to suck us in to the story and make the proceedings all the more unnerving. Every time our heroes gain an advantage, they’re knocked down a peg by the ingenuity of the army, and the equilibrium is constantly teetering back and forth allowing a relentless grit that will keep audiences fearing for the good guys, even when they’ve managed to survive longer than five minutes.
Along the way Rama tackles just about everyone and with his lightning quick reflexes and martial arts abilities dodges every single machete wielding monster Tama tosses at him, leading in to a twist ending that paints the color of morality a healthy shade of grey. The entire cast provide remarkable performances, including Yayan Ruhian who is just incredibly ruthless as the lightning fast second hand to Tama simply named “Mad Dog.” With his deceptively short stature, he’s a man who prefers a good battle over a quick gunshot, and he’s a force to be reckoned with. You’ll be praying for his death by the time he faces off with the film’s heroes. “The Raid Redemption” is an unstoppable wrecking ball of an action film that signals the action genre is alive and well, and anyone in the market for a rollercoaster action thriller need look no further. The foreign gem of the year, “The Raid Redemption” is a remarkable, incredible, and exciting action thriller with phenomenal fight sequences, brilliant performances, and a final product that begs to be watched again and again if only for the intricately staged battles in the closed off corridors of no man’s land.