This is where I typically breakout the history behind the making of this film. Followed by the budget, little trivia about the welsh writer/director Gareth Evans, and then rounding out the secondary paragraph with my list of slightly educated expectations. None of that is going to happen. Partially because that educated bit was a lie... and the other part is because I knew next to nothing of this film until the last minute. I've heard around the blogs that there was this insane action movie that Sony Pictures Classics picked up the rights and was slowly releasing it wider and wider due to its popularity. Man was I in for a surprise.
The plot to The Raid was simple and they explained that pretty well within the trailer.
20 Elite Cops
1 Ruthless Crime Lord
30 Floors of Chaos
SOLD! At first it felt very video game-y... but it kept switching gears on me. Think of Modern Warfare and the best elements of the Ong Bak series. Anyways, these 20 Elite Cops are sent on a mission to bring in this ruthless crime lord holding himself high up in his insanely protected apartment building. From the beginning (but more so later on), you're following this rookie cop; Rama (played awesomely by Iko Uwais) as he battles alongside his fellow officers.
As I mentioned before, think of Modern Warfare... guns are for sure a-blazing for a good while. Lots of cool explosions, mayhem, and death reigns gloriously within the first 20 to 30 minutes. Now start thinking of Ong Bak or the most intensely brutal portrayal of bone-crunching martial arts you've ever seen and then turn the volume up to MAX. I shit you not but don't get me wrong; this doesn't feel like an endless fight scene like The Matrix Reloaded. There are gripping moments of pause that are sometimes so intense, that it wears on you all the same.
The score by Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) & Joseph Trapanese did an incredible job of influencing the frenetic pace of the film. Just think, there are so many places to hide in a 30 story building filled with people who want you dead, and you're all out of bullets. Take it from there.
There is a decent story to tell within The Raid dealing with trust, family, and politics; surprisingly it does pay off. In such a way that the writer/director wants to continue that story across his next 2 sequels and I feel that they're warranted instead of money-fisting excuses. Just keep in mind that if you're prone to getting motion sickness, the beginning is not going to be your best friend. Wait until the guns are down, it becomes more hand-to-hand and it lets up a great deal.
Now you just have to prepare yourself to say "ouch" or "holy shit" every 15 seconds. I can't count or recall all the moments I was awe-struck by the stunts preformed or long camera takes in this movie. On little over a million dollar budget, they put it on the screen, and gave it their all. What they delivered is something I plan on seeing again with a few more friends this week. You can say that I'm a big fan of Kung-Fu & Karate flicks but this is a genre-definer all it's own and I absolutely can't wait for the following installment.
For any martial art aficionado, you will NOT regret it. Honestly, I don't know that many people who hate watching decently choreographed fight scenes. So how about excellent ones?
Is this film "theater worthy"?:
Yes. At this point, you should have already stopped reading and saw it. I kid, but really... I think if you don't have an amazing surround sound with some bump to that bass... you'll lose out on how intense the theater can make this for you. You feel every hit visually, as well as physically.
My final thoughts:
I dig the flick. It's by no means perfect. The camera was too jumpy for me at parts. Some of the editing seemed a bit off (if I want to nit-pick) but I can't help but to praise this film for what it has accomplished. The amount of physical labor and love for action and execution into this film on such a staggeringly low budget is mind boggling so I'm going to support it to death. And I think you should too.
Slamfist Rating: 9 out of 10