It’s common for us to fault an action movie for not having a well-developed story or plot, but if the movie is completely void of story it can bypass that sort of criticism. Gareth Evans’ The Raid is this kind of bullet-filled but bulletproof attraction. It’s not actually entirely lacking in story, but what little narrative there is comes simply, though not necessarily thinly, towards the end. For the most part, it’s really just nonstop action. 100 minutes of nonstop action.
Think of your favorite part of an action movie. I assume it’s the final third, where whatever the climactic fight consists of occurs. Now, imagine you took away the first two thirds of that movie. Stretch out what you’ve got left, fill in the extra space and time with more fighting, and that’s The Raid. There’s a plot, because action is plot, but it’s basically just this official bare-bones synopsis from the TIFF catalog: “A swat team is trapped in a rundown apartment block filled with heavily armed drug dealers and killers.”
I saw the movie early in the festival and was totally blown away by it. The reason it’s taken me so many days to file a review is because without a story or much plot to communicate to readers it’s kind of hard to meet my word quota for this post without just stating the same thing over and over. I guess the best I could do for diversity is tell you that early on there’s sniper rifles, then machine guns, some explosives, then they move on to more machete action, smaller knife fights, and then eventually it’s all unarmed combat.
The Raid does have a primary hero, a rookie played by rising Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais. And he’s best described as a tornado moving through the halls of the apartment complex, taking down more bad guys a minute than seems possible. Although obvious, I couldn’t help but think of The Raid as an adaptation of any video game in which the levels of play are floors of a building. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an arcade but the old game “Kung Fu Master” came to mind. The main difference is that The Raid has many more enemies coming at you, and the violence inflicted upon them is much, much more graphic.
There has to be more graphic violence to fill up all that time, of course. It’s not like Arnold Schwarzenegger storming through a compound shooting every indistinct and anonymous baddie quickly and from some distance until the known higher ups are found and dealt with in more unique and explicit ways. Any one of the guys Uwais goes up against could go swiftly or more drawn out, maybe end up slammed neck first into the shards of a door, or shot multiple times in close range in slow motion or fast, or whatever else kept the TIFF crowd consistently applauding specific kills.
The Raid is being compared to Die Hard, but John McClane would never have lasted if Gruber had as many men, and additional loyal tenants, as this film’s big boss does. Still, it’s always nice to have a breakable action hero, and like McClane, Uwais’s character is plenty worn down and cut up as the action progresses. Of course there’s a lot more story in Die Hard, as well. That movie seems like such a slow-paced drama now that I've seen The Raid.
Oh, man, I still haven’t made this review long enough. Seriously, this movie does not ask for so much discussion. I guess I should just finish with what my friend said to describe the movie as: Pow! BangBangBangBang! Ratatatatatatatatat! Pow! Pow! Okay, that was stupid. Just go see the movie. It's awesome.