With ambitious technique and a feverish pace, The Raid: Redemption will stay in your head long after it’s done. Centering on an Indonesian swat team attempting to arrest the big boss of a criminal slum in Jakarta, Writer/Director Gareth Evans uses action set pieces and fight choreography the way Woody Allen uses dialogue: as a series of pivots the film hinges upon. Evan’s muse is Iko Uwais, a fresh-faced practitioner of the Indonesian martial art pencak silat, and the film’s protagonist–Rama. Uwais isn’t a terribly engaging presence when The Raid goes quiet, but in the midst of a fight he is simply remarkable, and he’s not alone. Donny Alamsyah plays Andi, Rama’s estranged, gangster brother, and Yayan Ruhian is Mad Dog, the big boss’s right hand man. In a scene as entrancing as it is exhausting, Rama and Andi battle the indomitable Mad Dog, and at well over five minutes of essentially non-stop brawling, it could have ended up feeling tedious. What keeps you in the action is Evans’ moving camera. All the action sequences are handheld, but more than that, the camera movements are often choreographed with the action, making for an utterly immersive experience.
The Raid: Redemption injects a lot of crime movie tropes, with plenty of double crossing and substantive revelations, but this mostly tends to get in the way. The reality is that The Raid doesn’t need to worry much about its plot, as it is so thoroughly founded in action. With such an abundance of breathtaking choreography and camera work, the rest is ornamental.