The Welsh are not known for their martial arts movies, but that hasn’t stopped writer-director Gareth Evans from becoming this year’s poster child for the online fanboy community. Evans’s third film – the second shot in his adopted home of Indonesia – is ultraviolent action filmmaking on an impressive scale, but it lacks the emotional depth and narrative unpredictability required to become a genuine genre classic.
Evans’s own discovery, Iko Uwais – a practitioner of the martial art called silat – plays Rama, a decent cop with a Jakarta Swat team whose task is to infiltrate a tower block ruled over by drug kingpin Tama (Ray Sahetapy). But no sooner are the team inside than the shutters come down and an army of fast-kicking thugs come swarming out of the woodwork. The fight scenes – shot in doc-style shakycam – are furious and bloody, snapping arms, legs and backs as the gangs square off. Uwais makes for a mesmerising lead, charming, unsettlingly vicious and quick on his feet. But there’s not enough story to make ‘The Raid’ fully compelling. A subplot involving Rama and his brother, Andi (Doni Alamsyah), feels perfunctory, as do some shenanigans with a corrupt cop.
Still, the consensus is that ‘The Raid’ marks the arrival of a major talent, and given a bigger budget and a less functional, more personal script, it’s possible Evans could come up with something special. For now, count ‘The Raid’ alongside the likes of Peter Jackson’s ‘Bad Taste’ or Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Mimic’: a talented young filmmaker flexing his muscles, stating his intent, and promising better things in the future.