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THE RAID (2011)

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see The Raid. In my quest to catch up on all my favourite martial arts movies, sorely neglected for long years, I decided to keep my momentum going by watching The Raid, a martial arts thriller by director Gareth Huw Evans ( Merantau, Apostle). There are many gems on Netflix Canada if you know where to look.

The Raid begins with special tactics officer Rama (Iko Uwais, Triple Threat, Headshot) praying, practising Pencak Silat in his apartment in Jakarta, and then saying goodbye to his father, and to his wife who is eight months pregnant. He leaves to go to work. As he leaves, he promises his father to “bring him home”. We don’t yet know who he is referring to, but we can probably guess.

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Rama is part of a heavily-armed guard of a 20 men police squad, including the characters Bowo (Tegar Satrya), Dagu (Eka Rahmadia, Beyond Skyline), and Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim, The Night Comes For Us, Fast And Furious 6) and Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno). The team’s purpose is to take down the crime boss Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy, May The Devil Take You). Tama has the privilege of owning a decrepit apartment building of 15 floors, letting criminals and drug junkies from around Jakarta rent rooms from him while being under his protection. There’s talk of a drug lab on the premises.

It’s a risky, dangerous situation. There’s the very real chance none of the team will emerge at the end alive. Rama and his team infiltrate the building, taking down the tenants in order to get to Tama and his two right-hand men, Andi (Donny Alamsyah, Buffalo Boys) and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian, Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

The long-anticipated (by me) The Raid does not disappoint, and it should be a permanent staple in any martial arts enthusiast’s collection of movies to watch (for those following along at home, the same way Chocolate is). With the fight choreography in the movie being led by Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, The Raid (and it’s sequel, The Raid 2) features an in-depth look at Pencak Silat (pronounced “Penchak Silat”), the traditional martial art of Indonesia.

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The Raid is well-shot, polished and even has some interesting cinematography to boot. The beginning five-minute sequence captures very efficiently how depraved and awful Tama is. He’s definitely one of the more interesting and original villains in a martial arts movie than the typical cigar-smoking mob boss. Reportedly this is exactly what director Evans was looking for in a character.

The tone of the film is great too. Being a martial arts thriller, the film takes itself seriously as there are no martial arts comedy moments here. This film is all business. The loudspeaker Tama uses to speak to his tenants is quite creepy and helps to set the tone of the film, along with the decrepit and decaying sets that make up the building. This gives the entire film this grey, gritty mood that’s great.

While the team is heavily reliant on their guns to begin with, the team eventually gets decimated, and separated from any kind of firepower. They must begin using their wits and their martial arts prowess to survive. There are some really great moments here when they start using their martial arts. There’s a machete gang. And a great moment where Rama uses a stove propane tank in a fridge to make an improvised explosive device.

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If anything, I have only one complaint about The Raid, with all these great dudes proficient in their martial arts. (And there are a ton of great martial arts, with TaeKwon-Do and Judo being among them, and Pencak Silat being featured most prominently.) And that is that it takes them until just about the halfway mark before they are separated from their munitions and begin beating the crap out of each other. One of the strongest moments in the film is when Mad Dog, who is just this complete psychopath, goes up against Jaka, the sergeant, and they both toss away their guns and have an epic battle of blows.

That being said, there’s no real weak moments of the film, Evans being clear that with his characters he wasn’t playing to type. The display (and indeed, array) of martial arts in the film The Raid is stunning. Every character brings a lot of power to their role with their martial arts repertoire. And it goes without saying that the Piranha Stunt team was hard at work in the filming of this movie.

Pretty much, if you waited this long to see the film The Raid like I did, wait no longer. Prepare to be utterly amazed by this film, The Raid, like I was.

The Raid is available on Netflix.

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