The Raid: Redemption is enjoyably disreputable trash—a giddy mixtape composed of parts of seemingly every action film ever released, particularly those directed by John Carpenter. Writer-director Gareth Evans’s premise is so direct and streamlined that the tagline on the film’s poster truly manages to convey the entirety of what proceeds over the course of the running time: “1 Ruthless Crime lord. 20 Elite Cops. 30 Floors of Chaos.” With that premise, Evans unleashes a relentless barrage of set pieces built around machetes and copious amounts of gunplay, as well as a kind of Indonesian martial-arts fighting style called silat.
Aesthetically, silat is reminiscent of parkour, as both are driven by a jazzy improvisation in which the fighters base their moves on surrounding objects as well as the leverage specific to the physicality of their opponent. Silat appears to lack parkour’s exhilarating sense of grace and transcendence of the limitations of physical space, but it’s probably unfair to base that judgment of the discipline as presented in the film, which pointedly lacks any grace or beauty in general anyway. Evans has talent, but he’s clearly working under a blunter-the-better philosophy. If a particularly good John Woo or Walter Hill film could be accurately termed balletic, then The Raid: Redemption is wrecking-balletic.
The film’s been compared to a video game, and while that comparison is apt, it more accurately scans as a perverse, deliriously violent edition of Chutes and Ladders. Evans’s key visual flourish, which he returns to time and time again throughout the film, is an unbroken shot that follows a handful of characters, a somewhat varying configuration of the elite cops and the marauding baddies in pursuit, as they collapse from the foreground to the background of the screen with a suddenness that’s often shocking. Cops hack their way through the floors that encompass the huge ramshackle building that serves as the lair of the drug dealer, or “big boss” in video-game parlance, or else they find themselves plummeting a few stories only to land with bone crunching force on a fire escape landing.
The Raid: Redemption is another self-conscious work by someone obviously looking to restore the action film to the mantle of adult entertainment, which is a sympathetic aim in an action landscape that’s largely defined by PG-13 offerings that feature men and women in their pajamas fighting alien creatures in plots that are only marginally less ludicrous than those that characterize especially forgettable Star Trek sequels. In the tradition of Luc Besson and Neil Marshall, Evans is seeking to recreate action films that were made in (occasionally) glorious bad taste, films that seemed to celebrate and critique Reagan-era entitlement in roughly equal measure. Evans comes close aesthetically (The Raid: Redemption doesn’t lack for excitement), but it’s still a photocopy of a photocopy without the faintest whiff of subtext; the iconoclastic rebellion of a film like Assault on Precinct 13 or Escape from New York is regrettably missing. The Raid: Redemption is fun, but it evaporates the minute you leave the theater.
The film isn't very aesthetically attractive (it's all grungy greens, grays, and blacks), but the image quality is exceptional. The danger of transferring a film like this is that the blacks will bleed and render the image murky and tough to decipher, but this transfer sports an eye-popping razor clarity that far exceeds the theatrical presentation I attended. While it's a little surprising to find that a Blu-ray edition of a contemporary pyrotechnical action film doesn't sport a 7.1 DTS track, the 5.1 still impressively presents the countless acts of carnage and mayhem, not to mention the effective, if overused, score, with vividly detailed bombast.
The audio commentary with writer-director Gareth Evans and behind-the-scenes video blogs are the must-see features on this disc, as they collectively present a making of the film that's appealingly rich in the nuts-and-bolts details (one of my favorites: The floors of the drug dealer's lair are written on the walls in chalk so the filmmakers could reuse the same floor over and over with the swipe of a hand). Action aficionados will also enjoy the surprisingly generous footage of blocking and shooting the film's intricate fight scenes. "An Evening with Gareth Evans, Mike Shinoda, and Joe Trapanese" is a 40-minute interview with the filmmakers after a screening, and it's charming, if somewhat redundant of the information provided in the commentary and blogs. "Anatomy of a Scene with Gareth Evans," "In Conversation with Gareth Evans and Mike Shinoda," "Inside the Score," "Claycat's The Raid," and "The Raid TV Show Ad (Circa 1994)" are all filler, but this is still a terrific package.
The Raid: Redemption Blu-ray sports an attentive transfer and elaborate extras that should more than please any fan of this B movie on steroids.