In most action films there are one, maybe two centerpiece fights. The protagonist hints at his or her athletic prowess or his general badassery throughout the film, but it isn’t until the climax (or sometimes even the middle if the film is becoming a little laggy) that we see the full force of his or her efforts. Everything in the plot and the character’s trajectory lead to this one final showdown. This formula works for most conventional action flicks, but after a while formula becomes numbing. The action gets weighed down by the tension needed to have the cathartic fight and becomes less satisfying. (Unless of course if you are deeply vested in the plot line… haha) However every once in a while, I stumble upon an action flick that takes that final showdown and multiplies it throughout the plot line. Sometimes it results in disaster and sometimes it results in a masterpiece.
Let me build up the tension by not telling you what the Raid is and instead divert your attention by telling you what the film is about. Twenty SWAT team members enter into a gang leader’s fifteen story apartment building in rundown Indonesia. Their aim is to take down the leader who is barricaded on the top floor. The raid seems to be going fine until they get to the fifth floor and encounter a young boy. This young boy starts to yell that the police are here and all hell breaks loose. The tenants of the building come out of the woodwork and start to gang up on the team, taking them out one at a time. A series of intense fights happen and our hero is becomes the only one left standing except for a couple of key villains. Fight…. Fight…. Fightey McFight Fight Fight.
Ok now that I have properly left you hanging, I will tell you that I thought this film was really enjoyable. There wasn’t a point where the fights got boring or annoying, they left most of the shitty character development out-of-the-way and there were tons of interesting weapons. Because the movie takes place in Indonesia, the fighting style the main fighters employ is Pencak Silat which seems like a messier version of Muay Thai. There are a lot of arms flailing around, some intense kicks and some really great weapon twirling (okay so twirling makes it seem effeminate. It is everything but, trust me.). This chaotic style of fighting leads to the meticulously planned fights look more improvised and human. This isn’t an easy thing to pull off. Most of the time when you see hand to hand combat (and when you can see the whole fight which a lot of movies these days choose to not show you) you can see the fake reactions people have to take a blow without actually getting hurt. But here it all seems real, at least for the most part. There are a few scenes that seem less interesting than others, but I think that is mostly because the great scenes stand out as perfect examples of how a movie fight should look.
My only complaint is the false character development at the beginning and towards the end. From the opening shot we know who the hero of the movie is going to be because the director shows him pray, work out and kiss the baby bump of his pregnant wife. Just because we see him get ready doesn’t mean that I care about him. It isn’t until he starts to dominate the fights he is trapped into doing do I really want to see him succeed. That sequence seems just as fake as the dialogue break between our hero and the long-lost brother who happens to be working for the enemy. Does the man who rescues him really have to be his brother that he hasn’t seen in ages? Can’t it just be a henchman that is having second thoughts about all the senseless violence going on around them? Instead of taking that seemingly easy route, we get bogged down with declarations about how much they miss each other and how they could have chosen their perspective paths in life. BORING. Get to back to the fighting already. All of this is inserted into the movie purely because it is used to set up the end fight sequence where the brothers face the most brutal henchman the gang lord has. But I think that same fight sequence could have been just as effective if they left all that stuff out and just say he turned. This is just a dumb action flick after all.
For the most part, I was amused and delighted by the innovative fights in this movie. I think I might start really liking these action flicks. I hope I am not going to turn into a dude any time soon… Stereotype!