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The Raid

The problem with The Raid is a lack of foreplay. So eager to get to the gunplay and, admittedly, outstanding violence; it eschews pedestrian conventions like characterisation and narrative in favour of watching bullets fly into children in slow motion – á la Lord of War (the Nicolas Cage movie based on a hilarious misunderstanding of the English language).

Still, that doesn’t stop this movie being able to rock you like a hurricane. Never since the Stallone/Schwarzenegger era have I seen such a gratuitous celebration of straight-body-count violence.

The Raid follows the new school of martial arts in film – hit hard and hit constantly(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9z5aWAQQ34). That is to say, the fight sequences are as breathtakingly fast and intricate as ever, but recently it’s been more about literally beating-the-other-guy-almost-to-death(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0p7TS7I728).

For this reason, the action scenes sort of teeter on the brink of ridiculous for minutes at a time. But more often than not, the director manages to keep them grounded long enough to hit that sweet-spot between ultra-violence and astonishing choreography.

Special mention goes out to the music. None other than Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda provided the score for this release of the film – and he’s got chops. He knows just how to lay it on thick, coming at the audience with a chunky, guitar-driven industrial wall-of-noise when the action sets in – but also how to scale it back to something more taut and atmospheric, often incorporating sound-effects from the film, when he wants to build tension.

The star, Iko Uwais, doesn’t have quite as much personality as Tony Jaa – current kingpin of the martial arts movie world, or as much charm as Jackie Chan – undisputed godfather of every stunt-heavy movie genre, but then that’s the law of diminishing returns.

This isn’t entirely his fault though, he’s not given many chances by the script to display much more than the conflicted-cop-on-a-mission cardboard cut-out this genre relies on. Even his martial arts talent is wasted at times, when overkill basically switches you off to the sheer grace of it.

The best fight scene actually takes place between two secondary characters that we actually know even less about – simply because their fight is the only time when the director slows down long enough to actually introduce the combatants. So in exchange for an extra 60 seconds of lead-in, we get the most compelling fight of the movie – because it’s the only one where we don’t already know who’s going to win.

The translation is a bit spotty at times – either that or Indonesian SWAT police talk like they’re in a Jane Austen novel – but it hardly matters.

It’s a good movie. The good guys wear fingerless gloves and half the bad guys look like members of LMFAO. More than once the audience I was watching with quietly broke out in nervous laughter at just how silly the violence got. It has a similar appeal to District 13 – a small group of do-gooders attempt to liberate an area under the total control of a heavily-armed gang of maniacs led by a well-connected psychopath. It’s a good action-movie premise that seems to be more popular outside Hollywood for some reason. Go see this if you want to watch Iko Uwais pound dudes to death with the frenetic energy of a psychotic Indonesian woodpecker.

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