by David Ashley
The Raid: Redemption has met with some critical acclaim thanks largely to the Toronto International Film Festival – but you’re either interested in the subject matter or you’re not. I seem to recall the last time I made an effort to watch Asian men be unstoppable with martial arts, I was about 21 and was wondering why I had bothered to purchase Enter the Dragon – the first time such thoughts had entered my mind. The film has happily sat on my shelf, untouched, since then. I would’ve sold it but I find that the profit would not justify the time spent. If anybody out there is listening and wants my copy, let me know and I’ll mail it to you! For free! I’d be happy to see it put to good use. So I’m sure that The Raid: Redemption is an impressive martial arts film against current standards, but for this viewer there was simply nothing to be seen, nothing to hold my interest – except my notepad in front of me, where most of this review was distractingly penned… I had to occupy my attention somehow or I would’ve become very depressed. I felt better afterward.
So, here we are. A SWAT team arrives at a large slum apartment complex to capture an apparent kingpin drug lord, HQ’ed there. The complex is thought to have been impenetrable, even by the police – this is because it is populated by, I swear, about one thousand agile young machete-wielding kung-fu supermen – who still incredibly fail to survive more than a few seconds when they meet our “protagonist.” Somehow having a pregnant wife places us on his side. He’s just another SWAT team member, but he survives considerably longer than every single other team member, who are exterminated as rapidly as the fodder who careen down the same blank apt complex hallways as our hero. His survival may have something to do with his absolute and immediate command of any environment he enters, and any useful prop, or prop whose destruction creates a new prop. Our hero, Rama (Iko Uwais), in real life is a 29 year old silat expert who is quickly gaining international notoriety for his impressive physical prowess. Despite my mounting boredom with fanciful combat choreography, the film manages to be equally dulling when the action halts and we’re left with a story composed not by the writers of video games, but the fans of those writers. Such a film has the potential to, maybe even should, be fun. But The Raid: Redemption is less than fun, taking itself quite seriously and concerning itself with being “cool”. No humor to be found here. And when the end finally comes it’s somehow an anticlimax.
What was most disturbing to witness was the profusion of ultra-violence and its sale as sex. We, by the way, have CGI technology to thank for regular violence’s graduation to bombarding ultra-violence, an infinitely more capricious madness in which it is so much simpler to speedily knife every viewable part of the human body (there are enough warm bodies on which to practice); to add those bullet wounds in post-production so even less attention need be paid during the moments when those guns are pointed and fired (I would estimate the shell casings one could find on the complex floor during the events of this film would top 10,000). Uwais is a super soldier who, in melee mode, is attacked one man at a time, murdering the interchangeable non-player-characters with the efficiency and omniscient foresight of Jason Bourne. I swear, the film is little more than a testing ground for murder variety, and for scenes of endless hand-to-hand combat where no hit makes an impression unless it is “impressive.” Welsh director Gareth Evans clearly is largely inspired by violent video games, and I would’ve rather played The Raid: Redemption than have experienced it. The film is best viewed by non-thinking, non-feeling, primarily youthful males – admission should require proof of Xbox purchase. Apropos, I can see it being best utilized as a tool of further indoctrination for military infantry, if one were so soulless. I, at least, was indoctrinated further into this belief: every Asian can fight and all black people have rhythm.