Hyped up and ready for action, The Raid was hailed as a game-changer of an action flick packed full of martial arts and gunplay like no other long before release. Welsh-born writer-director Gareth Evans and the Indonesian martial artist he discovered Iko Uwais had already won plaudits for Merantau Warrior so they needed to show their fans another installment just as mouth-watering. Thankfully they’ve nailed it thanks to another star turn from national Silat champion Uwais and a frenetic assault on a gangster’s tower block by a woefully under-prepared SWAT team. Much like a Die Hard if Bruce Willis was Bruce Lee or, more accurately, Uwais, The Raid is not just break-neck but also full of bullets through the head and devastating finishing moves. Yet for all the excitement for action junkies, the attempts to add family drama to proceedings makes for unnecessary plot development that won’t be appreciated by those frustrated by a slow down in the pace and will seem tacked on to those who want more of a story to their battles.
The fortress-like tower block is in the heart of one of Jakarta’s most deprived slums standing 30 floors high. Not only is it home to a ruthless crimelord and his two sadistic henchmen, there are also unsavoury types living in the apartments who will equally disprove of the uninvited guests. Said guests may be a crack SWAT team, however any hope of them all surviving is quickly extinguished after a promising start to the mission and soon they are stuck without any hope of back-up surrounded by bad guys on every level armed with guns, knives and deadly fists.
The baddies line up to take him on, then each one is despatched in increasingly novel and surprising ways.
While The Raid starts out with gun fights taking centre stage, the moment the ammo runs out and Uwais is one of a handful of the original SWAT team left he gets to kick ass in fine fashion. Not since Tony Jaa’s appearance in Ong-Bak has there been such a buzz about a screen fighter and his speed is the marvel to savour here. The baddies line up to take him on, then each one is despatched in increasingly novel and surprising ways you’ll be out of breath by the time the last one falls – in the case of the packed cinema I sat in, Uwais was even treated to a round of applause such was the outpouring of wonder when he landed that last hit.
Uwais can’t make the film alone, though, and there is fitting support from Joe Taslim as SWAT unit captain who manages to go toe-to-toe with Yayan Ruhian (called Mad Dog here) which is no mean feat and a slightly awkward twist which means well as an additional tug at the heart along with the fact Uwais’s character Rama has got a heavily pregnant wife waiting at home. There are times when director Gareth Evans doesn’t give you long enough to appreciate what’s happening on screen and you wouldn’t say no to a replay or even a little slow motion, yet there is a sense that is to come when he’s handed a bigger budget to get the most from his equipment and showcase just how impressive his star-in-the-making can be in front of the camera. A tantalising prospect.