Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor
How many different ways can you punch/stab a guy? It’s the age-old question, and the new action flick The Raid attempts to answer this boldly, stylishly and graphically. You should watch it but only if you’re into that kinda thing.
I’m not exactly clued into all the martial arts films that are out there. Yeah, I know who Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee are/were, I know of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, and Chuck Norris. Movie stars who beat on people, right? I’ve seen David Carradine’s Kung Fu show and I’ve seen The Matrix. This is pretty much the extent of my expertise on the subject.
But I’ve also heard tell of these other martial arts films that are out there. They’re generally low-budget, B-film kinda stuff, made in foreign countries for a world-wide audience, most times only to be seen on dvd/tv. They’re exploitive, stupid and brainless. These films exist to be appreciated for the physical feats on display, the rush of kinetic energy, the fight choreography. But for me, they are usually boring, repetitive, laughable.
Then I went on The Raid.
Straight outta Indonesia, The Raid has a beautifully simple set-up. A SWAT team goes into a building to apprehend a bad guy. Not hard to follow. So then what we have is a film that is based around fights, confrontations, shootings, stabbings, whirling fists and feet. The down moments merely let us find our bearings before the next skirmish, as our small group of heroes is whittled down, survival becoming the new primary mission.
The martial arts on display is a new one, to a degree. Called “silat,” it’s a traditional Indonesian combat style that varies from the others in, as far as I can tell, that there’s more rabbit punches and more throwing people against walls. Now that’s entertainment! Directed by Gareth Evans and starring Iko Uwais, The Raid is their second film together, following Merantau, which ushered in Uwais as a new global ass-kicker.
Yeah, it’s frenetic, over-the-top, loud, violent, and an action-film-lover’s dream. In a lot of ways, The Raid reminded me of that lost-in-the-80’s Walter Hill flick Trespass, starring Bill Paxton, Ice Cube, and Ice-T. I’ve always loved that film for the same reasons I liked The Raid: a straightforward plot, more-or-less realistic narrative progression, and ACTION.
Problems with The Raid? Too much shaky-cam, which bothers me to no end. Directors just have to know when to tone that shit down, as nausea in a movie is not a plus. And of course, there are some logic burps, like when they storm the hideout of the dealer and he has only one guard on a chair to stop them, and having “normal” people living in a building where no such people would ever live, etc. Quibbles, I suppose, but it makes you wonder how such things get into a film when they obviously make no real sense and could easily be fixed.
So yeah, I’ve been exposed to silat, and I liked it. And if you can stand 100 minutes of people flamboyantly beating on each other framed around a bare-as-bones story, then you’ll like it, too.