Blood, guts, and hand to hand combat galore. A S.W.A.T team raids an apartment tower that is overrun with criminals.
Beware the following will contain plot detail.
Nowadays, even with increased cultural overlap, it’s rare to watch a foreign film. Asking someone what their favourite non-Hollywood film can make them more flustered than asking them to name the President of Bolivia. Having travelled all the way from Indonesia into the mainstream, The Raid does qualify as foreign and for those concerned about language issues, it’s mostly a martial arts film where a punch to the face is universal.
The setup is all in the title and pleasingly simple. Take 1 apartment tower, put the crime boss at the top and have a police force sweep from floor to floor taking out the mobs of bad guys. There is a little more depth with Rama (Uwais), one of the junior police members, turning out to be the brother of Andi (Alamsyah), one of the criminals, but The Raid is not famed for its storyline. With such few elements, all the focus is on the fights and action which are spectacular and artistic. Another positive is that large parts of the film feel creatively distinct to others in its genre. Quite soon, as their numbers dwindle, the protagonists are overwhelmed with the enormity of the task and must use their wits to survive. This is not a film where I felt the hero was immune, every punch, knock and fall registers with bruising pain. The fight at the end is a great display of fight choreography as well as relentlessness, although I thought it was slightly too long.
Even with all the fast-paced action, the plot is not too sparse and does form an adequate basis for the planned trilogy. At the time of writing, there are plans also for a Hollywood remake, so soon there could be enough Raid action to swim in. There are many cases where popular does not equal good (the first Hobbit film for example), but I do not think this is one of them. Rather it is looking to be a case where the original is the best and, at the very least, the most ground-breaking.