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The Raid: Redemption

A movie directed by Gareth Evans

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A Morass of Senseless Carnage

  • Apr 23, 2012
Star Rating:

The Raid: Redemption is unwatchably bad – a film that has no ambition other than to be noisy, aggressive, and relentlessly violent. Watching it is a little like being trapped in an arcade game and having absolutely no control over it. The characters, developed solely on shallow and overused clichés, are essentially targets in a shooting gallery, most of them serving no purpose apart from awaiting their cue to die in a savage attack. There are basically three types of weapons featured in this film: (1) Guns; (2) machetes; (3) human fists. The first two are used in scenes so brainless and bloody that they transcend goofy entertainment and achieve shameless exploitation status. The third, as you may have surmised, puts the film in the category of martial arts, a genre that has nothing to offer apart from pointless spectacle.
Most of the action is captured on the Queasy Cam, so even if you do appreciate martial arts, the picture is usually so shaky that the choreography is virtually undetectable. The only time the camera holds still is when someone is stabbed, or shot, or sliced, or having their backs broken or throats slit. Writer/director Gareth Evans doesn’t care about a genuine adrenaline rush, nor apparently about humanizing his characters. I’m not against cinematic violence, but it can’t simply be glorified. It has to have some meaning, some sense that it belongs in the story. The only way such a thing is possible is if you take the time to develop your characters into people we can actually care about. Otherwise, we have little more than pieces of meat in a grocery store – neatly saran-wrapped but giving no indication that they were once a part of something living.

The film does occasionally pause to take its breath, but that doesn’t mean it delves into anything resembling a plot. Not by my understanding, at least. The few scraps of information I gathered were not only maddeningly conventional but also so poorly developed that it was next to impossible to determine who was doing what and why. Even if there is a plot, it’s unlikely that any potential audience will hold the slightest interest in it. All we’re made to focus on is the violence, perhaps in the misguided belief that what was being depicted was escapist fun. A masked superhero getting into hand-to-hand combat with his archenemy is escapist fun; men getting their brains blown out against filthy concrete walls, on the other hand, is unpleasant and needlessly excessive.
The set up, so far as I can tell, involves a gang of madmen and murderers housed up in a derelict apartment building. No rival gang is able to penetrate its walls. Neither are the police. That’s because it’s overseen by a ruthless crime lord named Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy), who has so many surveillance cameras hidden all throughout the building that it isn’t possible to get anything past him. Sent in to take the crime lord down is a surprisingly small squad of a SWAT raid team led by Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), a senior police officer. Many recognize this mission as a fool’s errand, and so it is, although decency prevents me from telling you why. The main character is a member of this rookie team. His name is Rama (Iko Uwais), and at the start of the film, he leaves behind a pregnant wife.

Rama has reasons for taking part in this mission apart from the obvious. I will not say what they are, as I’m not allowed to spoil anything for you. What I will say is that it factors into a plot twist so manufactured that it might as well listed in a rulebook of clichés. Rama and his team navigate the floors of the building one by one, repeatedly running into ambushes of men with machine guns and machetes. I’ll spare you graphic descriptions of the many bullet wounds and hack jobs shown all throughout, although I feel it necessary to warn you that one of the people killed is a boy no older than twelve. As the rookie team is decimated one by one, Rama will take part in a completely unnecessary and unresolved subplot involving a frightened tenant and his ill wife, who needs her medication.
As of the date this review was written, The Raid: Redemption has earned an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Am I the only one baffled by this? Exactly what is it about senseless carnage that audiences and critics find so appealing? This is an appalling movie that mistakes brutality and bloodshed for entertaining action violence. That most of this shot with cameras that appear to be caught in an earthquake doesn’t help matters much, nor does the fact that the color scheme is dim and muddy. Even the blood, which basically replaces paint for the walls and floors, is an ugly dark shade, looking more like the contents of a sewer pipe than like an organic fluid. If a movie like this qualifies as praiseworthy, a serious shift in thought will soon be our only salvation.


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September 16, 2012
Dunno if I told you, but I saw this about a week ago. I watched it three times while I had it borrowed out from the library. I loved it. The amount of craft that went into the action sequences should alone warrant this a higher rating than a mere .5/4. Kinda worries me that you'd ignore that sort of thing, but I guess the senseless carnage got to you. Anyways, even though we disagree beyond comprehension, I still think this is an alright review. Although it's not too far off from Ebert's analysis, which is slightly shallow although justified.
September 16, 2012
My only response is that we clearly have very different definitions for the word "craft." If beating someone into a bloody pulp while the camera shakes uncontrollably counts as craft, then I'm Eleanor Roosevelt.
September 17, 2012
Any filmmaker can display a whole lot of blood and violence, but the way Evans does it...man, it's just so compelling. The one shot sequences are particularly impressive. Yes, his film may not have much of a story or characters and it indeed resembles a video game rather than what you may consider a "film" but I definitely would consider it real cinema, because it evokes so many positive emotions with its breakneck violence and pacing.
April 24, 2012
Hm. You know I loved this film. I see it this way as someone who had seen a huge amount of asian movies--martial arts movies are almost a dime a dozen in Asia, and I have to say most of them avoid the blood and gore, Evans had to do something to push the limits of such movies and real fighting to kill means a lot of blood. I mean, violence is violence and it has to be bloody to be realisitc-the blood fit the premise if there was no brutality then it would be another one of those other movies....well written review though, we are on opposite sides of the fence.
April 25, 2012
I'm just glad you're able to disagree with me without resorting to a degrading personal attack, which is more than I can say for some commenters.
April 25, 2012

I'm actually with Chris on this one. Was really hyped to see The Raid and ultimately felt disappointed with it. Honestly, I think Evans'/Uwais' previous collaboration, Merantau, was a better film in some regards.

The characters here are paper thin, the fights feel redundant as they go along (there's not enough variety in them -- one blends into the next with nothing to really make them stand out from each other. Contrast that to something like the Donnie Yen/Wu Jing and Donnie Yen/Sammo Hung fights in Sha Po Lang. Those fights are in the same film, but utterly distinctive because they feature not only characters we know something about but different styles of fighting.) and the writing is disappointing even by action film standards.

Evans clearly had a high concept for his film -- but he made the mistake of assuming that high concept would carry the movie and absolve him from having to do anything in regards to characterization and so on. Or maybe he didn't make a mistake -- after all, Chris and I are the statistical outliers when it comes to rating this film. It seems to have worked for a lot of other folks. Anyway, not the worst film I've seen, but hardly the Asian action masterpiece so many of my colleagues proclaimed it to be.

April 25, 2012
Mike, I liked Merantau in a different way. I had little expectations for this one, and while I see your points, I did like this movie for several reasons that may be different from yours.

I loved Sha Po Lang, it had a good story and a build up that gave me a lot of suspense. In many ways, I liked that one better than this. However, they are different movies under the same flag of 'action'. Sha Po Lang was a martial arts drama-its characters drove the story. This one was sort of a 'window' of an ongoing event (it is also meant as a trilogy), I forgave the fact that the movie had paper thin characters because one wouldn't really know what is really going on when one witnesses an assault in real life. If I was an spectator, then I wouldn't know anything about the cops or the bad guys.

This is how I approached the film. Yes, it may be a stunt show, and yes, it clearly has its weaknesses but I commend it for trying to go near the edge. Let's be honest here. Real life fights with the intent to kill would even be more brutal and bloody. (I hate the fact that the Wolverine movies had no blood, makes them silly and unrealistic) No it wasn't a masterpiece. But it had the guts to go the distance. I am very tired of martial arts movies with no blood and no visceral appeal. I like what he did and I am curious how he is going to wrap things up with the sequel.

All I am saying is one needs to accept the fact that what they are about to see is violent, complaining about violence when the director clearly intended the movie to be violent may be a little unfair. It is his film--did the movie show great, spectacular fights? Yes. Did the movie keep to a visceral tone and tried to instill emotion and suspense through the struggle? Yes. Did we know much about the characters? No. But sometimes, caught up in the heat of battle, no one knows anything about the combatants.

True, I understand that the movie is not for the squemish, but violence and true brutality never is for everyone.

I liked Chris' review because of his honesty in his opinion. It was a great review but it came from a viewpoint different from mine. No one is right or wrong, it is all a matter of opinions.
April 25, 2012
and Chris, I would never be rude and insulting to a reviewer with a different opinion. I see different opinions as a way to learn more about reviewing a film. We are all individuals and as such we all have different things to offer regarding a topic. The only time I MAY get snarky is when someone reviews something they haven't watched and criticizes or when someone makes up false statements about the movie. But even then, I won't be insulting but will be very honest.
April 26, 2012
That's very good to know. I hope you believe me when I say that I would never review a film I haven't seen. That's just plain silly.
April 26, 2012
Believe me, I have seen some reviewers re-phrase lines in imdb.com and one even tried to rip off my own review mixed with another's. You are one of the good reviewers out there, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You are committed to your art and that is all that matters.
May 05, 2012
In response to Mike's reply I am curious and not saying this in like an angry or negative tone but I'm confused as to what you were expecting with The Raid after seeing the preview because it pretty much summed up the film itself so if you liked the preview enough to go see the film its just weird that you didn't like the film. I think I like this more so as well because it was simple and in my opinion executed well for such a simple film.
May 05, 2012
Also pakman I agree with you I loved this movie but a review like this one is needed because otherwise we are writing reviews for not much else and its cool to see a difference in opinion to spark a flame in our writing and maybe even a nice debate or intense convo cause this would just be boring as hell without it.
April 24, 2012
"Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination" told ya, never let a wimpy snot nose looser to review a martial arts action movie .. this is what you get!
April 24, 2012
Hi, I am among the community managers here. Now, now, it is just an opinion. I loved the film, but I wouldn't insult the reviewer. I know things can easily get lost in translation in the internet, so I am not sure how you meant your statement. However,  It is all about different strokes for different people. We may not agree with what the reviewer has to say, but we have to respect everyone's opinion otherwise no one has to respect ours.

Would like to read your thoughts about the film though.
May 12, 2012
Hey man, no personal attacks.
April 24, 2012
"...puts the film in the category of martial arts, a genre that has nothing to offer apart from pointless spectacle." I see, the martial arts genre is not your cup of tea. But you have no right to insult it, thank you very much.
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I’ve been so disappointed with the recent flurry of Hollywood commercial films that I had to once again use my nose to find a great movie amongst the independent/foreign film circuit in my local neighborhood theater. This is how I came across the Indonesian Action film called “The Raid: Redemption” (Indonesian title: “Serbuan Maut” translates to "The Deadly Attack"). This is the second collaboration between fight choreographers Iko Iwais and Yayan Ruhian after …
review by . April 16, 2012
In the middle of Jakarta's slums lies an impenetrable apartment complex which is a safe house for the city's most dangerous murderers, killers and gangsters. The crappy apartment block has been considered untouchable to even the police. It all changes when an elite team is tasked with raiding the building in order to take down the notorious crime lord Tama Riyandi who runs it and ultimately resides at the top of this insane game of death. Getting ready to tackle this risky and dangerous layered …
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Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


  • The Raid: Redemption
  • Opened March 23, 2012 (Limited 3/23) | Runtime:1 hr 41 min
  • R Strong Brutal Bloody Violence and Language
  • Information for parents: Common Sense Media says not for kids.
  • Rama, a member of a special forces team, arrives at a rundown apartment block with a mission to remove its owner, a notorious drug lord. The building has become a sanctuary to killers, gangs, rapists and thieves seeking accommodation in the one place they know they cannot be touched by the police. When a spotter blows their cover, Rama and his team must fight their way through every floor and every room not just to complete their mission but to survive their bloody ordeal.
  • Cast: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Satrya, Iang Darmawan
  • Director: Gareth Evans
  • Genres: Art House/Foreign
  • Poster art for "The Raid."
  • from wikipedia.org:
  • The Raid: Redemption (Indonesian: Serbuan maut) is an Indonesian martial arts action film directed by Gareth Evans and starring Iko Uwais which was released worldwide in March of 2012. This is the second collaboration of Evans and Uwais after their first action film, Merantau released in 2009. Both films showcase the traditional Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat. The fight choreographers of The Raid are Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian who also worked on Merantau. The US release of the film features music by Mike Shinoda of Nu Metal band Linkin Park and Joseph Trapanese.
    After ...
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    Director: Gareth Evans
    Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
    Release Date: Mar. 23, 2012 (limited), April 13, 2012 (Nationwide)
    MPAA Rating: R
    Screen Writer: Gareth Evans
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