Friday Fisticuffs: The Raid (2011)

the raid posterWow. A lot of times you hear about these movies that are supposed to be awesome and then you finally get around to watching them and you’re let down. Usually your expectations were not met even if you keep things pretty spoiler free like I do. For instance, people talked about Cabin in the Woods like it was this amazing thing and while I thought it was good, it wasn’t mind-blowing. I thought that might be the case with The Raid after hearing about how intense, brutal and efficent it was with its fight scenes, but much to my surprise and delight, it was not over-hyped. In fact (get ready for some hype of my own), it might just have featured one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen.

But we’ll get to that. The story follows a group of Indonesian SWAT officers as they lay siege to this slum building run by a big time criminal. They’re trying to clear the place out and grab the boss, so in true video game fashion they start at the bottom and work their way up towards the top. At first the bad guy doesn’t know they’re there, so the plan is working,  but then the poo hits the fan and what looks like a small army of filthy super-fighters armed with machetes starts breaking down doors to get our heroes.

Our actual hero is named Rama and he’s played by Iko Uwais, a dude whose work I want to familiarize myself with. Not only can he do some ridiculous fighting, but he also has a real hero’s face. He’s not the cynical type of guy you might see in a 90s action movie or a jokey Jackie Chan type, dude has hope and intensity etched in his face which isn’t an easy mix to master. We like him right off the bat because he’s not only one of the best of the best, but he’s also married and has a kid on the way which, to continue the video game comparison, is like taking the Mario warp pipe straight to the peoples’ hearts even without spending too much time with characterization. What more do you need, though? Dude has something to fight for in addition to being just a stand up, awesome person. That’s good enough for me.

What’s even better for me is how blisteringly amazing these fight scenes are. Many of them take place in cramped hallways and sparsely decorated rooms, but even with that there’s always something interesting going on. At one point Rama is fighting with a knife in one hand and a nightstick on the other as all these dudes rush him from every angle AND he’s trying to keep his wounded team mate alive. It’s crazy, but it only gets crazier from there.

The main fighter bad guy (the boss himself is older and doesn’t do any fighting of his own) is called Mad Dog and you can tell from looking at this guy that he’s seen some stuff in real life. Dude looks intense, but he fights in a way that looks both meticulously trained and animalistic, like he’s able to harness both aspects of violence. He gets into it with one of the other officers and it’s a pretty wild thing to behold.

I keep using words like crazy, brutal and wild, but that’s because they basically perfectly describe this movie. These guys aren’t having fun on this mission, they’re there to to good work, save people and take out the bad guy. This is efficient fighting and killing until you get to the big-deal opponents who know what they’re doing like Mad Dog. The final fight which teams Rama up with another guy against Mad Dog is something truly amazing. I kept thinking, “Now they’ve got him!” followed a moment later by, “Oh man, how is he going to get out of that?!” Then something else inane would happen. And this fight was in a concrete room with few accoutrements. It’s kind of like what everyone wishes the Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon/Darth Maul fight would have been, but a million times more intense than anything you’ve seen in most other movies.

I did have a few problems here and there, though. Some of the earlier fights, while breakneck-paced and exciting as hell, did feel a little stage-y, like you could tell some of the guys were counting the timing out or reacting before something they could have actually seen happened. Another thing that got on my nerves is that throughout the whole movie our hero and his fellow survivors never picked up a weapon left on the ground before running to the next part of the building. They’d use say a dropped machete while fighting, but leave everything behind as soon as the fight was over. Wouldn’t you want to keep a knife or something just as a bit of a safety net when hundreds of dudes are trying to kill you?

But those are minor problems, ones that I actually had to write down to remember because, by the end of the movie, I’m pretty pumped up after watching that fight. Man that was AWESOME!!!

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