“The Only Way Is Up“
It’s always a joy to watch a great movie you never saw coming. No months of build-up in the trade press, big name stars in the gossip columns or early awards season chatter. To all but the most knowledgeable insiders, or festival circuit buzz followers, The Raid took everyone by surprise and turned out to be one the best fight movies of the last decade.
And it is a fight movie, pure and simple, no car chases or mammoth pyrotechnics here, old fashioned action beefcakes need not apply.
The premise is simple and unpretentious; an Indonesian Special Forces unit launch a raid on a 15 storey building in order to take out drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetaphy). The building is to most of Jakarta’s criminal fraternity (handily skilled in all manner of martial arts and weaponry) and the team must work their way through them to the big boss.
From the off the violence is uncompromising and unrelenting and will produce a few cringes for even the most hardened fight fan. This is definitely not a film for the squeamish. The run down building provides a harsh and claustrophobic setting for close quarter martial arts. The action is both breath-taking and intense; you sense that these men are fighting for their lives rather than an impressively choreographed tussle for the camera. Lead Iko Uwais is easily the one best fighters to ever grace the screen.
The plot in itself is not original, being reminiscent of Assault on Precinct 13 or even the latest reboot of Judge Dredd but Welsh Director Huw Evans doesn’t pretend otherwise. No lengthy character back story or too many self-indulgent flashbacks. The less said about the dialogue the better as it comes straight from the ‘Action Movie Dialogue for Dummies’ playbook. The bad guys themselves are nothing more than cannon fodder in the team’s relentless assault, floor by floor, to their ultimate target.
In summary, The Raid is vicious, frenetic, unpretentious and mercifully lacking in CGI. You won’t have time to catch your breath.