Most folks would be left suffering from PTSD if they witnessed real-life bloody beatdowns and shoot-outs; watching these things choreographed onscreen with the same grace and gosh-all grandeur as a Freed Unit musical sequence, however, is the best vicarious thrill you can get at the movies. And in terms of beautifully coordinated film violence—the kind involving flying fists and feet, whizzing blades and ballistic superbattles—Gareth Evans’s insta-classic Indonesian crime flick is leagues above every kinetic bullet-ballet and martial arts epic of the past decade. Whether this 31-year-old Welsh director will eventually be mentioned in the same breath as legendary chaos orchestrators like Sam Peckinpah or John Woo remains to be seen. For now, Evans can take pride in the fact that he’s set the bar for cinemayhem impossibly high.
The premise is simple: A drug lord (Sahetapy) rules from atop an apartment complex in Jakarta. A rookie cop (Uwais) and his SWAT-team cohorts storm the building; the kingpin then locks down his fortress. The only way out involves fighting their way through an army of thugs. Using a video-game-like narrative (get through boss fight, move on to next level), the plot proceeds with a built-in momentum, all the better to showcase one inventive set piece after the next: a siege in a cramped room involving a makeshift fridge bomb; two cops hiding in a crawl space between apartments that's being repeatedly punctured by machetes; Uwais’s relentless hand-to-hand combat scene in a hallway; a two-on-one silat showstopper that’s a virtual philharmonic of pain. There are moments when The Raid: Redemption doesn’t feel like an action movie so much as pure action itself, delivered in strong, undiluted doses and with the sort of creative one-upmanship capable of rejuvenating a stale, seen-it-all genre. A sequel is currently in the works. It can’t come soon enough.
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