One of the most incredible things about forking out the price of a DVD to go to the cinema is the buzz and the noise you hear when a film strikes a particular chord with an audience - comedies have the howling laughter, dramas have the teary sobs, horrors have the screams of terror etc. But recently, these kinds of reactions seem to be in decline, especially in action films as they get bigger and bigger in an attempt to show us things we have never seen before. The Raid, an Indonesian martial arts flick directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, brings back the visceral reaction we hope to get with an action film and punches you square in the gut with it.
The plot couldn’t be simpler - 20 police officers head to a tower block in the Jakarta slums to apprehend a psychotic crime lord. There is however, one snag; this place is a haven for any criminal willing to pay protection money and serve under the rule of said psychotic crime lord. So once the police squad get spotted, chaos naturally ensues. There are a couple of twists and turns to the tale, but nothing groundbreaking. This is totally OK though, because the experience (and trust me, it is an experience) won’t allow much room to breathe, let alone develop a complex plot.
But don’t let the simple plot fool you, The Raid offers something much more visually complicated than your bog standard action film. Instead of cutting every half a second to disorientate the audience and disguise the fact they aren’t actually fighting, Evans allows for longer shots and relies on the astonishing talent of the star, Iko Uwais to provide an authentic realism that adds to the visceral nature of the film. Also adding to the excitement is that these fight scenes have a certain sense of desperation about them, they don't seem 100% planned. Combine this with a camera choreography that compliments the action and you certainly feel every bone breaking, skull smashing stunt you see on screen. If you thought it couldn’t get any better, the on screen carnage is accompanied by a symphony of heavy punches, bones snapping, machetes chopping and squeals of pain all to a meaty, beaty soundtrack from Mike Shinoda (from Linkin Park…blast from my past right there).
This is a film that sets out to assault the senses and its ability to do this well is what’s getting it all of the praises of everyone who’s seen it. Sure, it’s an incredibly simple film with plenty of violence that barely gives you a moments rest to develop its basic story - but the sum of its parts creates something far more intelligent than the big blockbusters that try so desperately to instil a sense of awe in an audience. This is something that brings cinema back to the days of the medium’s origin, where the Lumiére brother’s screening of a train pulling into a station caused their audience to dive out of the way and run out of the tent to look for the train behind the screen. It’s a visceral testament to the powerful kind of magic that cinema has on us.