Fight! Fight! Fight!
A neglected, crumbling apartment complex lies at the heart of The Raid: Redemption (the superfluous subtitle the result of a North American rights issue). A powerful gangland figure's HQ, the building's 30 floors are populated by drug dealers, sadists, thieves, and the poorest of the poor. Into this nest of squalor and vice descend a group of brave, scared policemen with the unenviable assignment of finding the mobster and bringing him to justice. But first they must run, shoot, slice, punch, and kick their way through a veritable legion of foes, including a notorious, vicious henchman known as Mad Dog.
Written, directed, and edited by Indonesia-based Welshman Gareth Huw Evans, this is a fabulous, pulse-pounding, vigorous martial arts action spectacular. Each of the film's 100 minutes is exciting. Just a day after enduring the disorienting, rhythm-free action which plagued the otherwise entertaining The Hunger Games, how refreshing to see a director (Evans) so in control of his craft and able to capture rapid, brutal ass kicking on film in a way which captures the speed and chaos of the moment without sacrificing spatial lucidity.
Evans finds any number of ways to twist, maim, and/or obliterate human bodies, and genre audiences will often find themselves cringing and laughing at the same time (as the venerable Roger Ebert's one-star review indicates, a more square audience might react with repulsion). In a film overflowing with jaw-dropping, showstopping sequences, the best might be the final fight against Mad Dog. The tension and physical torment reach almost inconceivable levels during this extended, three-person bout.
Though it is first and foremost an amusement, a clever contraption designed to deliver nonstop adrenaline rushes via furious action and a pulsating electronic score composed by Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and Daft Punk/M83 collaborator Joseph Trapanese, The Raid: Redemption deserves a bonus point or two for also telling a capable crime story with a handful of twists and a sympathetic protagonist in Iko Uwais' Rama, a classic "good cop" who believes in justice and, despite having the chance to cut and run and return to his pregnant wife, won't leave his friends behind.