'The Raid: Redemption' Is a Roundhouse Kick to the Head

[caption id="attachment_118826" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Sony Pictures Classics"]The Raid: Redemption[/caption]

Have you ever wondered what "Die Hard" would be like if John McClane knew how to roundhouse-kick people in the face and disarm bloodthirsty, machete-wielding henchmen? If so, "The Raid: Redemption" is your answer.

Indonesian martial arts movie "The Raid" is set up almost like your favorite video game. A SWAT team needs to secure and lock down an overcrowded, run-down building seized by a ruthless crime lord. While getting debriefed on the way, our hero, Rama (Iko Uwais of "Merantau"), learns this raid has never been successfully done before, and chances are slim everyone will make it out alive.

In order to seize this building and its owner, the team must silently power through 30 floors infested with killers, gangsters, mobsters and pretty much anyone this cruel man has in his pocket. And all of these people are armed with guns and blood-stained machetes. The plot thickens, as they say, when the bad guys find out the good guys are there and seal the place off. Things quickly turn into a body-breaking game of survival.

What sells "The Raid," and what we are here to see, are the incredible fist-pumping fight scenes everyone's been gushing over. You will be left slack-jawed. Every once in a while, a new filmmaker comes along and turns a genre upside down. Writer-director Gareth Evans has just opened a new floodgate for action films using the innovative Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat, which consists of controlled body movements and literally means “to fight artfully” (thanks, Wikipedia!).

Evans and star Iko Uwais (who’s trained in Silat) collaborate for a second time, combining this art in the most claustrophobic areas of a broken-down building with knifes, guns and pretty much any weapon that’s likely to give you tetanus. Imagine you’re at the dead end of a skinny hallway empty-handed, and a handful of goons are coming at you with dirty machetes -- your only choice is to use your surroundings and adopt or die. Kill or be killed.

Uwais and his choreography team construct these fights in an unbelievably violent, raw and exciting manner; at the same time, Evans is using the camera like an invisible person, just there watching this mayhem as it happens. Every long take and shot is impressive, and Uwais, as the lead, has the heart and passion of a young Bruce Lee. He was born to be an action star.

Our only complaint about "The Raid" is that it ended.  Good thing this is Part 1 of a trilogy.