The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Raid: Redemption | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Raid: Redemption

Directed by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy

A SWAT team's attempt to storm a druglord's tower block goes horribly wrong as they battle with it's residents.

When I visited Los Angeles I found it a disorienting place. Unlike European or even East Coast American cities, L.A has no center, it's a bunch of suburbs that collided with one another. The set-pieces of "The Raid" are somewhat like those suburbs, individually brilliant but crashing into each other with little planning. In "The Bad And The Beautiful" Kirk Douglas' producer fires a director because he feels he isn't giving his scenes enough drama. The director tries to educate Douglas that every scene can't be a climax but his wise words fall on deaf ears. Douglas directs the film himself but ultimately shelves it when he realises the naive mistakes he has made. Unfortunately Evans has made a movie full of climaxes.
I say unfortunately because there's a lot to admire about Evans' work. Despite it's flaws he has made the best action movie of the century, though that may speak more about the current state of the genre. The action movie is like the musical, it requires expert choreography between camera and performer. When done correctly it's thrilling for both cinephiles and general audiences alike. This movie I feel will ultimately be a lot more appealing to us cinephiles than our mainstream counterparts. The average viewer won't notice the film-making here, and therein is the affirmation of Evans' talent. If you don't think the transplanted Welshman has done anything special then consider this. Instead of being directed by someone with his skill, the movie is helmed by a Hollywood hack (Michael Bay, Peter Berg etc), or even worse, a European "stylist" (Timur Bekmambetov, Marcus Nispel). The film would be unwatchable, all shaky cam, quick pointless cuts, tiresome slo-mo, and CG blood spray. To top it off it would probably be in 3D. Like most great directors, Evan's has no style, he does what the scene calls for, no more no less. His camera is always in the right place and every cut has a point. The performers in this film do insane things with their bodies and Evans lets us see every bone-crunching moment of it. How many times have you watched an action sequence and thought "This would be great if I could actually see what was happening"? It's damn frustrating. Evans' direction is a breath of fresh air, analog film-making in an industry gone digital. The effects on display here are light years ahead of anything Hollywood can seemingly muster, practically every scene has a "How on earth did they do that?" moment.
As a John Carpenter fan I enjoyed the many homages to the master here. The movie is basically a martial arts "Assault On Precinct 13" and there's a fantastically tense set-piece which recalls the wardrobe scene at the end of "Halloween". This is how you pay homage to a film-maker, pay attention Monsieur Hazanavicius.
For all his skill in choreographing action, sadly Evans gives us little in the way of storytelling. It would seem he had a lot of ideas for great scenes rolling around his head but hasn't quite found a way to fit them all together in an involving narrative. Characterisation is almost non-existent, we're talking James Cameron levels. We never engage with the lead, Uwais, and so adept is he at dispatching the hordes of villains that we never feel any peril for him. There are also pacing issues, subplots disappearing for far too long only to reappear when we had practically forgotten about them. We rarely get a sense of context to the proceedings, it's never clear how many villains are remaining or even what floor of the building we're currently on. Evans' is a fantastic director but he badly needs to find a writer. He turned down the offer to direct a Hollywood remake, choosing to make a sequel instead. While this is commendable it's also a shame. Hollywood needs Evans more than Evans needs Hollywood.