But let me tell you, mein reader – it’s a crying shame, because this has to be some of the finest choreography we’ve seen in some time. It finds the happy middle between Hong Kong cinema style long-range fighting and that Thai style of movie fighting where people just kind of jump into the air and smash into each other. Yeah, sure, it’s actually based on Muay Thai (or more specifically, Muay Boran) but it still boils down to stylized head-on collisions.
It’s just not an south-east Asian martial arts film without a mook whose dreadlocks fly all over the place.
So, in this case, think The Protector, but with better hand exchanges, like a much more brutal version of Ip Man. This time around, we get the benefit of extremely hard hitting strikes that flow with a “dynamity” and rhythm that we’ve not seen yet. Not only do the hits look good, but they look like they actually hurt – a lot.
If you’re going to see The Raid, it’s highly recommended that you see it in theaters, because the audience is going to be hooting, hollering, and applauding during the bone-crunching finishers. Opinions on applauding for inanimate objects aside, it’s the sort of thing that brings a large group of strangers together, with each one acknowledging the other on the common ground of appreciation.
And, I’m pleased to report, that The Raid is actually shot like an old-school martial arts film – by that, I mean it was shot properly. All too often, directors will shove their cameras in too close to the action and hit us with that shaky-cam bull crap. It’s a directorial choice that makes absolutely no frigging sense, and has obscured the action of dozens of action films after it was introduced in Saving Private Ryan (where it was done right).
Within The Raid, every single technique is spared the fate of being unintelligible. It somehow feels fresh, new, and innovative – actually being able to see what the hell is going on. Much appreciated, in this case wherein every elbow, knee, and punch has such a feeling of blood lust and brutality behind it. To put it very simply, in terms of how the action is directed, it’s some of the best we’ve seen in years.
But, as stated earlier, it’s all bogged down by shoddy pacing, and the unmistakable feeling that your movie is kind of going nowhere the whole time. If The Raid were just a simple actioner devoid of such great fight exchanges, it’d easily garner 2, maybe 2.5 skulls out of 5.
“Joke’s on you, buddy. I like it when people kick me in the face.”
If the action scenes were isolated as a screen test for a potentially better film, then they, in and of themselves would get a 4.5 or maybe even a 5.
The Verdict: [rating:3.5]
Either way, The Raid gets a strong recommendation just because of what it is: a solid serving of action, marinated in a secret sauce of gourmet fight scenes. No, it doesn’t have the thrilling chases or stunts found in The Protector or Ong-Bak, but with the inundation of these awful, awful MMA movies that seem to have tried to replace the chop-socky genre, it’s a definite welcome addition. In the last five years, the only “fight movies” we’ve been able to access in North American cinema (aside from Ip Man. Thank you, Donnie Yen) have been attempts to capitalize on the growth of Mixed Martial Arts. The problem here is that mixed martial artists don’t make good movie fighters – ironically, they just don’t move right, and there’s a limit to the body of techniques we’d see in the octagon that would actually look good when strung into a fight scene. How did directors solve this problem? They didn’t.
Warrior doesn’t count, by the way – it happens to be fantastic, actually.
Anyway, with The Raid walking the fine line between apparent pragmatism and Hong Kong direction, a bit of fresh air has been breathed into the genre. Go see it, or I’ll ruin your life.