Review by Ashley Kerner
A SWAT team attempts to take out the crime boss Tama who is holed up in an apartment building in which all of the inhabitants are ruled by him with unrelenting violence. The audience soon learns that the man in charge of the mission is corrupted by power and money. The SWAT team is found out and the inhabitants of the building pick the cops off and kill them one by one. The hero of the film is a young cop with a pregnant wife who is not corrupted by money. We soon learn that the hero’s brother is the crime boss’ headman. When the crime boss discovers his headman has helped a cop, he vows to make him suffer. The good cop finds his brother tied up and being beaten by the drug lord’s bloodthirsty bodyguard who prefers to kill using his hands not guns. The two brothers fight off the bodyguard, while the corrupt SWAT team leader searched for the crime boss. The crime boss laughingly tells the SWAT leader that he is an informant and that he was told to lead the mission as a death sentence. The SWAT leader kills the crime boss, then tries to kill himself, but he has run out of bullets. The good cop ties up the corrupt SWAT leader and escapes with the help of this brother. The two brothers part ways one as a cop and one to a life of crime.
On a scale of one to ten, this film would be a four. This film is more mainstream than independent because of the violence and the easy to follow plot. The violence in this film was outrageous and was included for the sake of violence, not to further the plot line. The plot line was simple; it gave the audience a clear picture of what characters were good and what characters were bad. Without the violence this film would have easily been only ten minutes long.
The Raid is an action-packed powerhouse of a film from beginning to end. It is a smart, exceptionally well-choreographed martial arts movie that you can’t take your eyes off of. The violence is substantial and very graphic, but it does not feel gratuitous or forced in anyway; the story almost calls for it. When viewing the film, one would find it hard to believe that it screened at the Sundance Film Festival, as it has many qualities of a typical mainstream action film, but at its core, The Raid stands alone as the best and one of the only indie-action films I’ve ever seen. The Raid is about an elite SWAT team on a mission to take down a ruthless drug lord named Tama who has taken control of a fifteen story apartment building, fully equipped with lethal henchmen ordered to kill any intruder on the premises in order to protect the boss. In an almost video game-like structure—starting, literally, from the lowest level and gradually ascending upwards to the “boss level”—The Raid is paced very well, and the action that takes place throughout the film is much needed as opposed to some mainstream action movies where some of the fight/action scenes seem like minutes of filler. In this sense, The Raid almost acts as a character-driven story, which is something we hardly ever see in an action film. The choices that each character makes directly affect what happens in the next scenes. Because of aspects like these, I would have to say that The Raid would fall right in the middle of the independent vs. mainstream film spectrum. It’s mainstream in the sense that it is clear that this will be a popular film for action lovers, and also in the sense that it is an action movie. When one thinks of independent, one doesn’t really see guns, fights, and gore, but The Raid does have many independent tendencies. As mentioned before, I would call this film a character-driven film, where the importance is on the character as opposed to the plot. We get to know the lead characters, and we see why they say the things they say, and do the things they do. We can see their motivation. As far as its mythic qualities, The Raid challenges the conventional/dominant American cultural myths. Firstly, the film is foreign, so there is absolutely no English whatsoever; the film doesn’t even reference America. Also, in American action films, a lot of emphasis is put on the explosion; Michael Bay is a good example of this idea. In the film, there is only one actual explosion, the rest of the actions scenes only involve guns, machetes and fists. Personally, I loved this movie from the moment it started, and it may have just shot straight to my top ten list.