Sundance Journal: ‘The Raid’

Each year, a few movies at Sundance go on to become exceptionally hyped when they eventually receive distribution and hit big screens everywhere. Although ‘The Raid’ has been in the festival circuit for a few months now, it’s one title that, when it gets distributed, I’ll take pride in saying, “I saw that at Sundance.”

‘The Raid’ is a high-octane action/martial arts flick that makes ‘Oldboy‘ look like a walk through the park. Imagine a film that’s entirely like the stylized hallway scene from ‘Oldboy’. That’s what you get with ‘The Raid’. Despite being almost non-stop action, the film never loses your attention, never gets repetitious, and constantly makes you giggle with its extreme violence and non-stop badassness.

The movie opens with a S.W.A.T. team in Indonesia prepping for the raid of a 15+ story building located in the very worst part of the town – an area so bad the police don’t even come within a few blocks of it, and which serves as headquarters for the biggest crime boss and meth distributor in the country. The team’s plan is to smash their way in, get to the Boss, and smash their way back out. This isn’t their first attempt. Any police who’ve ever entered the building were never heard from again. But our S.W.A.T. leaders are said to have intel that will finally make this possible.

As expected (and as we want them to), things go very badly shortly upon clearing the first few floors. The Boss is tipped off to the intrusion and pits all of his tenants, his henchmen and his two right-hand men (the Brains and the Mad Dog) against the S.W.A.T. team. All hell breaks loose. Let the super-stylized action begin.

When the raid first goes awry, our heroes use their guns to fight back. That’s how the first third of the movie goes. In Act Two, they run out of ammo and begin using other weapons – knives, batons, machetes, axes and refrigerators. Refrigerators? Yes, refrigerators. Just wait for it.

While martial arts play a decent role in Act Two, they become the main weapon of Act Three. The changing styles of fighting keep this non-stop action flick from getting boring. If you hate “Peter and the Chicken” action movies, you’ll dread this violent beast. But if you love them, enjoy.

As I watched ‘The Raid’, I kept thinking that director Gareth Evans is to Sundance action movies as Duncan Jones was to Sundance science fiction movies. Jones just needed one film to land him on the map, ‘Moon‘, then he got a great mainstream studio deal with ‘Source Code‘. Evans is about to do the same with action movies. ‘The Raid’ is his ‘Moon’.

Believe the hype. ‘The Raid’ is the best action movie in years and well-worth waiting for.

Rating: ★★★★½

3 comments

  1. JM

    The Raid!!

    Sony is releasing it March 23.

    Gareth Evans next film will be a sequel of ‘The Raid,’ shot in Jakarta.

    As much as I want to see what this guy could do with a massive budget and some Red Epics, I kind of hope he stays indie.

    John Woo lost 15 years of his career getting dicked about by Hollywood.

    Sony better give this sexiness a 5-star blu-ray!

    • It’s going to be a controversial Blu-ray. It’ll be one of those Blu-rays that will most likely accurately reflect what it looked like in theaters, but overall will still end up being very, very gritty.

      At times it almost looks 16mm-ish. I don’t know what they filmed on, but the film has a far from pristine look to it. The right edge even featured intentional scratches that undulated the entire movie to give it an even more gritty, old cinema feel.

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