The influence for this picture is clear - the final scene in John Woo’s 'Hard Boiled'. It's the hospital scene, a 20-minute siege/blow-out extravaganza of monumental proportions, often regarded as the greatest action sequence ever filmed. 'The Raid: Redemption', the acclaimed actioner which wowed genre audiences at TIFF, Sundance and SXSW, takes inspiration from Woo’s final scene and applies it to the entire movie. It makes for an action movie for the ages, combining the great gunplay of John Woo and the super aggressive realistic hand-to-hand combat of Tony Jaa.
The Raid: Redemption (2012) dir. Gareth Hew Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
By Alan Bacchus
The simplicity of the set up is awesome. A Jakarta police SWAT team raids an Indonesian drug lord’s lair, a 30-story building inhabited by bad-ass thugs, martial arts experts and a whole lot of heavy machinery and fire power.
We become invested in two hero characters. Rama is a rookie cop, who has a pregnant wife at home, which means every bullet that passes his way could make his wife a widow and his child fatherless. These are the stakes. The other hero is the team leader, who runs into conflict with a shifty-eyed G-man who seems to have his own agenda in the raid. Of the baddies, the maniacal leader is Tama, a sadistic criminal who revels in death, destruction and torture and takes every shot at him like Tony Montana at the end of Scarface. His number one hit-man, Mad Dog, does the barking for him, a lethal weapon who will eventually face off with Rama in the end.
There are a few twists and turns in the story, which is not quite plotted out to our satisfaction. With so much fist-flying, bone-breaking and bullet-squibbing going on, it’s virtually impossible to get the character dynamics of the narrative right. A somewhat compelling emotional connection between Rama and Mad Dog is revealed, enough to justify the real purpose of the film – the action.
The action is indeed inspired stuff, beginning first as a John Woo-style gunplay epic. Once everyone’s bullets run out, it transitions into a martial arts beat down. Unfortunately, director Evans uses his moves early, and by the time the final confrontations happen we’ve just about seen everybody’s best stuff. And so exhaustion from the onslaught overload inevitably sets in. As such, the film doesn’t go out with a bang as Woo’s epic does. It kind of just peters out.
Ironically, director Gareth Evans is British but filmed his movie in Indonesia in the native language. Clearly he knows that in order to do an action film right these days, it has to be done in Asia with no holds barred.
The Raid Redemption is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Alliance Films in Canada.