This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 18th March 2012
The target market for this film has doubtless watched the trailer a hundred times already and long ago made up their mind to see it. So I’m probably preaching to the converted. But for those who can’t imagine what an Indonesian grindhouse movie made by a Welshman would be like: read on.
The Raid’s plot is simply that – in an impoverished housing estate in a Jakarta slum, a police SWAT team hunts out a drug lord and his gang, gets into trouble, and then tries to fight its way out. It is basically 101 minutes of thrilling, shocking, imaginative violence. I can’t even say “gratuitous” (because surely on some level all violence is unnecessary?) – for this film is a thoroughbred in the stable of martial arts movies whose over-the-top antics sees them merge, with perfect choreography, into pure exploitation.
What stands this apart (incredibly) from other action flicks is the naturalistic acting and genuine drama, dotted throughout the otherwise relentless, non-stop madness. While the protagonists in this kind of misadventure are usually two-dimensional, this raid is led by the sweet-faced Rama (Iko Uwais), whose pregnant wife waits for him at home. Even the criminals have personalities and back-stories. While the action sequences are jaw-dropping and there is never a dull moment, the film also works as a taut thriller, punctuated by episodes of injury and death that will have the audience laughing simultaneously in horror and disbelief.