Indonesia, USA 2011
Iko Uwais is Rama, a young rookie in a highly armed paramilitary special forces unit in Jakarta. On one grim day, he finds himself with his comrades in the back of an unmarked van, hurtling through the streets at dawn towards the nastiest part of town. In their black, bulletproof vests and black helmets, the team are disconcerted to be getting their briefing here, in the vehicle, rather than back at base: they are to launch a raid on a 15-storey building whose top floor is a drugs factory run by sinister crime lord Tama (Ray Sahetaphy).
Tama has turned the building into a virtual gated community for every serious criminal in town, and he is protected by a scary martial-arts hombre nicknamed Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian). The briefing is secret because the raid is secret; Rama and the team discover, chillingly, they are on their own, without official backup, forced to fight their way up the building, floor by floor, corridor by corridor, against fanatical and highly armed criminals. There is just one hope: that the enemy is addicted to the thrill of unarmed combat, and will lay down their assault rifles and meet Rama with bare hands, on equal terms.
The building itself appears to exist in a sort of expressionist-realist universe: the exterior looks like a digital creation, and the interiors, with their endless shabby corridors, are like a bad dream. It looks like a haunted hotel in a novel by Stephen King. The cops have rifles; the bad guys have all manner of weapons, including knives and machetes – everything, it seems, short of the "little friend" of Al Pacino's Scarface.
The Raid does not detain the audience with expositions of character; despite the plot reversals there is no pretence at subtlety or depth, and the comparison with Tarantino does not run to tricksy flashbacks or point-of-view shifts. The action runs at hair-raising speed on one single rail from A to B. It is not for everyone and the mayhem is pretty hard to take, but the brilliance of its choreography can hardly be denied, and as film-making it's fluent and muscular and uninhibited to say the least, the element of absurdity held in deadpan check: this is a superb pulp shocker made with passion and flair (part of a review from Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, 12 may 2012).
With introduction about martial arts.
This program is part of the Asiaweek 2013