DIRECTED BY Gareth Evans
STARS Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim
In 1948's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Alfonso Bedoya's bandit sneered a classic snatch of dialogue at Humphrey Bogart's prospector: "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!" While absorbing the blur of frenetic action that is The Raid: Redemption, one can easily imagine writer-director Gareth Evans spitting out a similar line to critics and moviegoers not on his wavelength. "Plot? We ain't got no plot. We don't need no plot! I don't have to show you any stinkin' plot!"
- Sony Pictures Classics
Iko Uwais (left) in The Raid: Redemption
The need for speed is a necessity in successful action flicks, but even doozies like Die Hard and The Fugitive took time out to smell the exposition. This Indonesian import can't be concerned with such niceties: After a prologue that lasts about as long as it takes to brush without flossing — we meet a cop named Rama (Iko Uwais) at home, loving on his pregnant wife before leaving for work — we're immediately thrust into the thick of it. A ruthless crime lord resides on the top floor of a slum building, and a special unit of law enforcement officers is ordered to take him down. Yeah, that's basically the whole show; it's not Shakespeare — heck, it's not even Stephenie Meyer — but who needs complexity when the end result is as purely entertaining as what's presented here? There's a traitor among the good guys, but the identity is so obvious that it hardly taxes the brain. There's also a connection between one of the heroes and one of the villains, but it's so risible and far-fetched that it only further proves that this film shouldn't attempt any heavy lifting in the cerebrum.
No, The Raid: Redemption works best as pure, unadulterated, uncut action — it's like cocaine for adrenaline addicts. While the film can't help but stir memories of countless other actioners, particularly those set within carefully controlled buildings (Die Hard, Assault on Precinct 13, Attack the Block), its moves are all its own, thanks primarily to the contributions of star, stuntman and martial arts expert Uwais. The hand-to-hand combats are breathtaking to behold, and the Welsh-born Evans also knows how to obtain maximum returns from the ample scenes which focus on gunplay rather than fist fights.
The characters are painted in such broad — or, in a couple of instances, clumsy — strokes that only two really stand out. One, of course, is Rama, thanks to Uwais' natural charisma. The other is a villainous henchman appropriately nicknamed Mad Dog. Played by Yayan Ruhian, he's a short, wiry man who lives to fight — and kill — with his feet and fists. At one point, he has an opportunity to shoot one of the heroes but chooses instead to lay down his weapon and fight up close and personal, trading kicks and blows until one of them is dead. In most movies, this sort of improbable situation can lead to audience guffaws, but not here. Witnessing the damage Mad Dog can inflict on the human body, a bullet suddenly seems like a pleasant way to go.