The Raid is one of the most compellingly relentless action films of recent times.
Rama (martial arts star Iko Uwais) is a rookie officer in an elite Indonesian police paramilitary unit. His team's first mission is to infiltrate the high-rise slum fortress of ruthless gang boss Tama, previously considered untouchable by the police. However, things very quickly go wrong The problem? The apartment complex the cops are invading is occupied by tenants who range from assassins to thugs to certifiable psychopaths – and all the other scum the slums have to offer. The cops barely make it through the door before they’re spotted by the crooks, and from there it is an all-out war, floor by floor, as Rama and his teammates try to brave a nightmare of violence and destruction in order to make their arrest.
Writer and director Gareth Evans takes a simple concept and wisely avoids overcomplicating it, keeping the story moving forward at all times and also steers clear of modern cliches such as smirking one-liners, and “bromance”. The characters are far from invulnerable, giving a real sense of uncertainty to the outcome at times.
The action is shot and edited for maximum impact, with hardly a wasted shot or scene, leaving the viewer breathless. Granted, this does not leave much time to introduce the characters, many of whom, good and bad, get bumped off before we've barely had time to learn their names. This does have two justifiable outcomes however, as the scale of the carnage sets the tone of the threat, and the diminished cast keeps the story focussed.
While The Raid is ostensibly an action film, the gore, confined spaces and overwhelming tension at times make it feel like a horror film. There is also one other disconcerting element that links it to that genre - the building itself. The exterior has a slightly unreal feel, the overwhelming height giving the feel of a fairy tale castle. The interiors are nightmarish, dark, dingy, more like an insane asylum than a residential tower block.