HST… Film Review: The Raid: Redemption

The_RaidSo soon after the dust has settled on the battlefield between Lauren’s positive and Zac’s dissenting opinions of The Hunger Games, the line must once again be drawn for The Raid: Redemption, an Indonesian martial arts spectacular getting quite a lot of attention lately. So whose side will you join, Lauren or Zac?

Lauren:  I don’t mean to brag, but the other night I accidentally kneed myself in the face during the everyday, mundane activity of tucking my legs into my chest in the upright fetal position.  That’s right, I failed at a form of sitting down.  So obviously I know a thing or two about fighting (accidentally self-inflicted or not): 1- Avoid fighting. 2- Play dead.  Had The Raid: Redemption needed to fill a role of a bumbling manatee on stilts then they would need to look no further than past someone with my grace and skill, but there is no room for comedy here (except maniacal laughing at the pain of others, of course).

With the basic premise of a SWAT team infiltrating the towering home of a powerful mobster with throngs of killers at his disposal on each and every level of the building, the film comes off as something between a blood and guts drenched action film with wave after wave of enemies structured like a video game, with a story that is simply as basic of a premise required to pass in movies.  However, the only thing that really matters is the fighting.  Now excuse me while I pass this to Zac so I can get a round of violent martial art noises and chops out.

Zac: That simple story is sadly more than enough to make the film unbearable to watch at times.  Sure the action is solid, even great a couple times, but this doesn’t make up for the painful slog of exposition and completely unoriginal storytelling going on when the fists aren’t flying.  Predictable, preposterous, and pointless are some alliteration friendly adjectives to describe the story and no amount of action is going to change that.

The film’s first thirty minutes plus are so terrible I couldn’t sit still in my seat and that time frame includes the first “action” scene where our characters blindly shoot thousands of bullets in the dark. I think they might be shooting at someone, but the editing is so bad at times and the gunplay so random that everything is just basically boring to watch.  We shouldn’t have to sacrifice basically all quality in character/story then have mediocre action scenes on top of that in what is supposed to be a balls to the wall action flick.

Lauren:  Just say it, you hated the white guy.  His character was definitely forced in there and I think could have actually been done without in order to skip stories of possible corruption, questionable loyalty, etc., because as soon as he showed up on screen even I was just like “ugh…”  But never once did I find the film unbearable, as I was joyously taking it all in.  Yes, all of it.  Even the first thirty minutes that you deem terrible.

Really, what was so bad about them?  The montage of a few of the characters in their daily lives didn’t take up that much time (and let’s face it, the pregnant wife is a staple that cannot be avoided, just ask Battle Los Angeles and Act of Valor).  I actually really appreciated the beginning though because they cemented the fact that these guys were rookies, making how they reacted in the film more understandable (that one guys hand was shaking on his gun as they neared the building, for crying out loud!).  Let’s face it, when you’re new to something it doesn’t matter how well you have been trained, things can get out of hand, and fast.  Which is why the bullet-riddled scene you mentioned worked for me.  My boyfriend mentioned that it was completely unrealistic in how they just unloaded their clips like that, but think of how overwhelming that situation was.  They’ve just been informed that they are on their own against a large number of baddies who just learned where they are located, and they can’t see anything.  It would be like fighting with a strobe light pulsing, and I can’t blame them for not handling it professionally.

And the action, it more than made up for any problem areas.  “Mediocre,” humph, I swat that word away with crippling force.  There were new takedowns in there I have never seen before, as well as stunts that seemed impossible to pull off without killing someone.  I just felt like a little kid watching a magician or illusionist do something completely indescribable in front of my eyes.  Sure, the backbreaking landings, wall smashing, and stabbing could have all been done with movie making tricks and post work, but my suspension of belief was in full swing from start to finish.

Zac: There were some cool action bits and I certainly appreciated some of the effects they were able to pull off, but outside the two hallway sequences with our lead, Rama, beating the shit out of everyone they threw at him, I wasn’t terribly impressed.  The two fistfights with the crazy fighter guy were fine, but both felt long and I just wanted them to get over with already.  If they would have filmed them in longer takes it might have been a bit more cohesive and impressive, though as it stands, meh.

To the film’s credit acting in the film was adequate to pretty good all around, with the lead Iko Uwais doing a pretty great job both physically and emotionally.  I hope that he breaks out internationally and kicks some ass in some American films.  Ray Sahetapy was also a stand out as the crime lord Tama as his crazy eyes scared me on more than one occasion.

I don’t have much else to say so I will just lay out a couple of cool moments that might make the movie worth watching; as long as you can fast forward through the crappy parts.

-Dude getting thrown across a gap and on to balcony ledge.
-Machete meets face.
-Basically everything Rama does or punches.

Nothing else stuck to my brain just a mere three days after seeing it; that’s not good.

Lauren:  OMG… That balcony toss is definitely one of those moments where I was baffled with how they pulled off the landing of the body, and I will agree with Iko Uwais’ Rama being the best by far as the centerpiece of the film and action.  However, there were still other moments away from him that I could not do without.  Even the simple tactical stuff was pretty cool, as well as how they worked around the environment to simply survive: finding alternate routes through the building, using objects found in the apartments, transitions in fights from one guy to the next (such as when one of the SWAT team members tackles a guy and celebrates by continuing him out through the window).

Honestly I can’t even remember all of the moments I loved, and yes, that includes the terminator-like unstopability of “Mad Dog.”  He was a tiny powerhouse, and I would definitely not make any alterations to his first one vs. one battle, though I guess maybe his second fight could be trimmed slightly.  But just slightly!

One last thing before we go, I have to mention the soundtrack by Mike Shinoda (who you might possibly know from a little band called Linkin Park) and Joseph Trapanese.  The scores effortlessly integrate into the drama and action with ease, becoming just as important to the film as the music to Tron: Legacy or Hanna.  You can’t tell me you didn’t enjoy that, at least.

Zac: I honestly have zero recollection of the score and the fact someone from Linkin Park scored it does nothing for me, they are terrible.  Daft Punk has nothing to worry about.

Just give me someone to care about in a movie and I can be far more on board with it, great score or not.  The Raid has no one to root for as it doesn’t even try and connect with its audience on any level; character wise and thematically.

Lauren:  I’ll give you something to connect to [repeatedly slams first into palm].  And the reveal that you didn’t care for Rama at all because of the simple unyielding fight to get out alive is yet another point to note on the list I have created on why you are dead inside.

Zac’s Final Grade: D     @IHavingSaidThat
Lauren’s Final Grade:  B+         

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