In a way, it’s fairly indefensible. The Raid: Redemption—subtitle added post-Sundance 2012 due to a trademark conflict—is little more than a flurry of ultraviolence in every possible form, connected by the thinnest possible narrative ligaments. In effect, it’s 100 minutes of martial-arts porn.
But it’s hard to resist the crunching did-I-really-just-see-that? effectiveness of Welsh director Gareth Evans’ blast of Indonesian grindhouse. The plot centers around a police SWAT team’s attempt to sweep into a Jakarta tenement and take out crime boss Tama (Ray Sahetaphy), who holes up there. Naturally, the mission goes bad, leaving a rookie cop named Rama (Iko Uwais) to try to save his surviving teammates, navigating his way through the multistory building and its army of killer thugs.
There are attempts to create an emotional back story: a pregnant wife for Rama, a secret loyalty of one of the Boss Tama’s henchmen, a possible mole within the cops’ ranks. Those elements are almost as trite as they are cursory, an effort to assuage your conscience so you can tell yourself that you’re not just watching a clip reel of creative mayhem.
But after the somewhat sluggish first 20 minutes, the mayhem is so creative in its bone-snapping, blood-spraying fury—never have I witnessed a crowd of jaded film press respond to a film with as much gasping, audible glee—that it’s best just to sit back, goggle-eyed, and enjoy the show. A villain is sent flying through the air to land back-first over a concrete wall; another is impaled on the remaining fragments of a splintered door frame; our hero tries to avoid being skewered while hiding in a crawl space. To some viewers, this might sound like everything that’s wrong with movies these days. Others may simply feel like lighting up a cigarette when it’s over.
THE RAID: REDEMPTION
Iko Uwais, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian