Grae's Rating:

4.0

Violence as art.

Since Ong Bak nine years ago I've been collecting cobwebs on the part of my brain that likes martial art movies, so the Indonesian The Raid: Redemption makes a great cranial dust buster—it is every bit as good as people are building it up to be.

An elite special forces team is assigned to capture the drug Lord Tama (Ray Sahetaphy)--the only problem is, he lives high atop a crime-infested 15 story apartment building, like Rapunzel in a wifebeater. Like all protagonists, the team expects this to be a routine mission. Some of them are newbies and technically too inexperienced to be there, but they seem fine as they quickly apprehend some bad guys. And then Tama uses my favorite weapon of all time: The Loudspeaker of Death. Imagine the speaker boxes that brought you the morning announcements in high school, except instead of friendly Principal Batterberry encouraging the purchase of brownies at a bake sale, it's a thick-accented villain telling all the thugs, rapists, drug dealers, and machete wielders in the building that if they kill the cops, they will receive lifetime room and board. To say all hell breaks loose is like calling Woodstock "a quaint shindig."

Remember how great that hallway fight was in Oldboy? Although the fighting styles and camerawork are different here than in that film (Pencak Silat sounds like something you might catch while visiting Indonesia, not a completely badass martial art originating in Indonesia), the energy is the same. It's hands-on-your-cheeks-almost-covering-your-eyes-but-not-enough-to-miss-anything kind of stuff. The Raid is an entire hotel's worth of Oldboys. And plus, the camera work is spectacular--completely reverent for the fighting style, catching every subtlety. It stays far back enough so you can actually see the skill and brutality, but never feel disconnected to its frenzied pace. So lucky us, we get to see guys get flung about, sometimes landing neck-first on broken door jambs, falling through floors, or getting their heads slammed against tile walls (not one time, but maybe seven), making it seven times as awesome as the last martial arts movie you saw.

There are two kinds of people in the world: the kind who don't understand the big fuss over someone counteracting a spin-kick by grabbing the assailant's leg and using the momentum to send them crashing into something, and the people who totally get the coolness of said act and give this movie their money. Enrich your life and be the second kind of person.

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