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‘The Raid: Redemption’ Review

The Raid Redemption
Sony Pictures Classics

If you are lucky, you get one “how the hell’d they do that?” moment in a film. In ‘The Raid: Redemption,’ incredulity is your default position. Once the movie gets kickin’ (and we mean that somewhat literally) the acrobatics and athleticism on display are staggering. Not since John Woo came on the scene with ‘Hard Boiled’ has corridor-based action filmmaking experienced such a level-up.

And level-up the film does, taking a very deliberate cue from the world of gaming. Our heroes’ task is straightforward: atop a fortress-like housing block (which is, like, 75% drug den, 25% home for innocent, sickly people in need of an honest cop’s help) there sits an evil mob lord. We know he’s evil because when he goes to shoot some misbehaving underlings at the beginning and runs out of bullets he doesn’t think twice before bashing someone’s head in with a hammer.

For the most part, we’re embedded with a SWAT-like task force. They overcome an obstacle and they go up another floor. They suffer a setback, in one case an actual blasted-out hole beneath their feet, and they are back where they started from. There are boss fights, there are side missions. If you find your thumbs air-punching the Konami Code, trust me, you won’t be alone.

It would be impossible for me to oversell the action in ‘The Raid: Redemption.’ There were three different times when I thought it impossible for a set piece to get topped, and yet it did. All future “Top 100 Fights In Movies” lists better make way for at least four: the apartment with the fridge, the hall with the throat gag (ewwww!), the drug lab (so much leaping) and the three-way fight in the abattoir room. . .or whatever the hell that room was.

That last fight is when our main hero (Iko Uwais) teams up with his wayward brother against the crime lord’s main enforcer. Which, oh yeah, may reminds me: this movie kinda has a plot.

I think I’ve made it explicitly clear that ‘The Raid: Redemption’ is the awesome and absolutely essential for action fans. As an actual movie with characters and motivation and whatnot, well, let’s just say it is of acceptable Van Damme quality. If you can’t tell the minute you meet the Saul Tigh-lookin’ guy that he’s a traitor, well, I’d very much like to play you in cards.

The emotional beats float on the goodwill derived from the spectacular stunts and camerawork. When the brother character sees the light and joins forces with our cop hero, I’ll be damned if I didn’t let out a cheer. Perhaps I was just exhausted from the 15 minutes of dazzling, bone-crunching choreographed fighting I’d just watched, but, hey, I still cheered.

‘The Raid: Redemption’ is the second collaboration between Iko Uwais and director Gareth Evans. (Evans is, let’s face it folks, the best Welsh-born martial arts director working in Indonesia. Can I get an amen on that?) Their first, ‘Merenatu,’ actually has a bit more of an opened-up story and look, but ‘The Raid: Redemption’ is the one that will be the landmark.

An American remake is on the way (I’ll withhold judgement for now) but two sequels are already in the works for Evans and Uwais. The working title of ‘The Raid: Redemption’ was simply ‘The Raid,’ so I’m taking bets now as to what R words will come after the colon in the next two films.

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