Title: The Raid: Redemption
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Yayan Ruhian and Ray Sahetapy
The complexities of storytelling and audience engagement are in the narrative’s simplicities. A simple story can draw and audience in while a driving direction can move them along. “The Raid: Redemption” is the perfect example of how this is true. By not being weighed down by exposition or world building, the film shines at what it does best, delivering heart-stopping and thrilling action. “The Raid: Redemption” is a triumph of stunt work and action filmmaking at its best.
The story is very simple. A group of elite cops must capture a crime lord on his home turf, a seedy apartment complex full of murderers, drug dealers and addicts. The film sets up the mission pretty quickly and effectively, but more importantly, gives the audience a sense of purpose of why we’re following these men into combat and certain danger. Starting off with Rama (Iko Uwais), kneeling towards Mecca during his early morning prayer. This lasting image is the sole reason why we’re connected to this man and his work. From an audience point-of-view, we see that Rama is a good man and loyal husband. This image is then intercut with Rama’s daily workout routine. This image tells the audience that he is also a hard worker, which is important to the bases of the entire film and why 100 minutes of intense, gruesome, and bloody, non-stop action works, not only well but also is highly entertaining.
“The Raid: Redemption” is the perfect video game movie. A group of elite cops enter a murderous environment as each level of the apartment building has its own feel, look, choice of weapons and end boss. As we follow Rama and level up from floor to floor to when finally we get to the big, bad crime boss. But what is so interesting about “The Raid: Redemption” is that filmmaker Gareth Evans uses the camera and editing to elevate the material to high art and Cinema. Think about it, the premise is simple, the stunt work is well choreographed and phenomenal and the lead is naturally charming and graceful so it would be easy to “simply” capture these elements and present them to the audience. But what Gareth Evans does with setting up each action set piece, where he places the camera in relation to the characters on the screen and how the film is cut together to give the audience a sense of momentum and meaning is simply invaluable.
Shooting and putting together action set pieces is not an easy task, just look at something like Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys and Aliens” (or any summer blockbuster and comic book movie, except anything by Michael Bay, no seriously, Michael Bay is a master filmmaker) against John Woo’s “Hard Boiled.” You can see the level of artistry and craftsmanship is like night and day. What Gareth Evans does so well is present something so complex in “The Raid: Redemption” in such ease in a clear and straightforward way.
As each moment goes by in “The Raid: Redemption,” there doesn’t seem to be a lack of movement or momentum in the storytelling or action. One worry before the screening was whether or not the promise of true non-stop action could be sustained for 100 minutes. This worry was no longer relevant as the film unfolds, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian (who plays the character of Mad Dog in the film) does an exquisite job building each scene and constructing what action beats work well on camera. The stunt team involved has executed some of the best stunt and fighting sequences I have ever seen on the big screen. There’s really never a dull moment but as soon as it feels like it’s losing steam, the action ramps up to the ultimate climax for each scene. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that had a big payoff for every scene. Almost every element introduced in “The Raid: Redemption” is paid off in one-way or another making this film a very tight and economical movie.
Throughout the entire film, an audience is invested to the narrative, not only in its action but also with its characters. This movie easily could’ve been something mindless, making it very tedious to get through (Look at “John Carter”), but filmmaker Gareth Evans and the film’s stunt team led by Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian have a deeper understanding of Cinema and a general audience’s reactions. It’s a beautiful ballet of bullets, brutality and balance. “The Raid: Redemption” is a rare film where the action genre and art house sensibilities come together for an amazing kick-ass movie. Especially, think of how silly the outcome of this film could’ve been, I believe the sub-title of “The Raid: Redemption” comes from an audience’s expectations of what we usually get in action movies today. And trust me, this film is not typical.