My colleague at spinetingler, author Sandra Ruttan, wrote a very good piece on a woefully overlooked little film earlier this week entitled Hunger Games: Not Really About the Violence. As a fan of the similarly themed Japanese cult film Battle Royale, where dozens of middle school kids are mowed down in the most surprisingly Spielbergian way (as in their deaths are simultaneously viscerally exciting and emotionally, almost sentimentally, affecting), I can’t say the review made me, a childless nerd, want to mow my way through dozens of middle school kids to get a seat at the theater. (I fucking slay myself sometimes, dear reader.) If the prospect of a largely bloodless, PG-13 action film doesn’t exactly light up the ol’ lizard brain, I offer you some tasteless if expertly made, hugely violent counter-programming to that film in the Indonesian martial arts extravaganza The Raid: Redemption from director Gareth Huw Evans.
Yes, dear reader, this is one of them word-readin’ pictures playin’ at the theater where you gotta pay for parking on account of all them skinny jeans and beret-folks going to their night clubs and micro-lofts around there and what-not, but I promise you there’s not much reading to be done. (You still gotta pay for parking though – cops don’t play when it comes to handing out piddly-ass fines.) There’s barely a story to this beast, just endless violence handled gorily and beautifully. We follow Rama (Iko Uwais) as he and a troop of twenty SWAT-like cops attempt to bring down a crime boss who resides at the top of an apartment complex filled with baddies who are very adept at shooting, stabbing, and an elbows-and-knees-heavy form of martial arts known as Pencak Silat.
The character development is slim, the story a degenerating disc-laden spine to hang action set-pieces on, and the emotional impact is practically non-existent, unless those emotions are “fuck yeah!” and “oh shit!” anyway. We start with our hero going up a few floors shooting and being shot at, then they get ambushed and thinned out and it becomes about knives and machetes, then the last top few floors are pretty much just hand-to-hand shit…and it’s all fucking glorious.
Other than much of the copious amounts of blood being sadly CGI (fucking practical effects are a good thing, filmmakers!), I really can’t do anything but praise the way the setpieces are choreographed and shot. Every ten minutes there was a sequence that literally made me clap in spite of myself, and though there’s obviously a lot of icing on this cake, it’s paced and diverse in such a way that I never tired or got sick of it. (Looking at you, Robert Rodriguez’s adult-oriented work post-Sin City.)
So if you’re looking for mindless, jaw-droppingly badass, ridiculously violent fun, you’re gonna do no better in theaters right now than The Raid: Redemption. Don’t sleep on this shit, my basement crazies, especially as someone is bound to do a terrible American remake soon with Taylor Lautner or some other weak-ass actor who couldn’t elbows-and-knees his way out of the fucking Aveda bag his skin creme came in, machete in hand or not.