Sundance Film Festival News

Sundance Interview and Review: Gareth Evans' The Raid

Source: Edward Douglas
January 25, 2012

One of the films that has made waves on the film festival circuit over the past few months even before having its United States premiere at the Sundance Film Festival is Gareth Evans' martial arts flick The Raid, which will introduce many American action fans to the cinema of Indonesia, its top martial arts star Iko Uwais and Evans' talents as a filmmaker.

Using a fairly simple premise, The Raid follows a team of elite police officers on a mission to capture one of Jakarta's most powerful crimelords, who is holed up in a secure building that doubles as a drug lab, renting the vacant apartments to the city's most dangerous criminals and killers. As the team makes its way through the building, their presence is soon discovered and all hell breaks loose as a bounty is put upon their head. Iko Uwais' character Rama is a rookie on the force who ends up having to use his martial arts skills to escape along with a small group of survivors as their situation becomes more and more deadly.

Earlier this week, spoke to Evans about the process for making this fantastic movie that's sure to draw a lot more attention to Indonesia and the fantastic martial arts stars coming from there.
And below is our review of the film:

The Raid (Sony Pictures Classics)
Written and directed by Gareth Evans
Starring Iko Uwais, Doni Alamsyah, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian, Ray Sahetapy
Rating: 8/10

It's not often American theaters play home to films from out of Indonesia, nor would we expect them to deliver a kick-ass action movie on par with Gareth Evans' “The Raid," but what the filmmaker is able to accomplish with such a simple premise is what makes the film so ingenious.

We're introduced to the film's protagonist, a rookie cop named Rama, as he's saying his goodbyes to his pregnant wife before heading on a mission to infiltrate a 15-story building complex and capture the local crimelord Taka, who has rented out the apartments to the city's worst thugs, none of whom like the police. It only spends a couple of minutes introducing the main character before getting to business with the police infiltrating the lower floors of the building before their presence is discovered and Taka puts a bounty on their head sending the building's hundreds of residents into a killing frenzy. Soon they're down to a half dozen men trapped in one of the apartments and it's up to the rookie Rama (Iko Uwais) to hold off the legions to escape with the few survivors.

Not since Thailand's Tony Jaa was introduced to Western audiences in “Ong Bak" has an Asian martial artist really blown us away as much as Iko Uwais. It's a little ways into the movie before he runs out of bullets, puts his guns down and starts taking out his assailants, first with machetes and knives and then hand-to-hand, using some of the most brutal and violent methods of subduing the waves of killers.

We weren't just impressed by the Indonesian cast's skills with guns and knives and martial arts but they're all fairly decent actors as we learn more about their characters and relationships with lots of twists to keep things interesting between the fighting. What Evans excels at is building tension as the men try to hide from one group of killers or another leading to an explosion of fists and blades.

The results are an action movie unlike anything we've seen, possibly since the original “Die Hard" as Evans proves he's the real deal with impressive visuals and fast-paced setpieces on par with Guy Ritchie, Park Chan-wook and Quentin Tarantino.

Rama eventually meets his match in Mad Dog, one of the crimelord's main lieutenants whose martial arts skills match his own, leading up to a climactic extended fight sequence that may go on for a little bit too long. The ending is great, though, leaving things in a place where a sequel would be welcomed.

What's surprising is that the English language remake rights for "The Raid" have already been sold, but that just seems pointless since there's nothing an American version could possibly do to improve upon what Evans did in this masterfully-crafted action film.

The Raid is scheduled to come out on March 23.

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