SUNDANCE: Everything You've Heard About Indonesian Actioner The Raid Is True
Expect Twitter to explode shortly with reactions to the Sundance premiere of Gareth Evans' The Raid, the Indonesian actioner that blew minds at Toronto but has been kept largely under wraps until now by Sony Classics, who smartly snatched up the pic and will distribute it this March. I caught The Raid last week at a pre-Sundance screening with its new score by composer Joe Trapanese and Mike Shinoda -- yes, of Linkin Park -- and can attest that the early praise was well-earned because holy crap, it's amazing. Everything you've heard about it? True.
I know, I just got done ranting about film festival goggles and inflated pre-release hype. But being mindful of falling into that trap, I've thought a lot about The Raid in the days since, and it's stuck. Not only that -- it's the rare film that I can't wait to see again. I've described it by pointing to the famous one-take staircase fight in Tony Jaa's The Protector: It prompts the kind of rush of that scene, only for the entire runtime.
Briefly, the simple premise of The Raid: SWAT agents in Jakarta, Indonesia, descend on an apartment building run by a local crime lord, only to find that the place is infested with criminals and the odds are stacked against them. The action emphasis is on gun battles and a form of martial arts called silat, which Evans previously used in his 2009 film Merantau, and to say the very least, it's a brutal, stabby, bone-crunching kind of action pic.
Pairing Evans' film with an electro-ish score by Trapanese and Shinoda works extremely well as their energies are well-matched, though I can't say what the original score sounded like. Suffice to say it may be the best thing to come of Linkin Park, like ever, and it adds a strangely perfect universality to the proceedings -- as if of course even halfway across the world in Indonesia dubstep is a thing, and folks imagine their every move underscored by a badass, grimy soundtrack. Who doesn't?
There are plot intricacies that are best left unspoiled, touching on the documented predominance of crime and corruption in Jakarta, but human relationships at the center of the chaos work well; in star Iko Uwais, Evans found a performer who can balance character while pulling off great, believable fight choreography right in front of your eyes. Even the extras seem like seasoned martial arts pros, and there are dozens, maybe a hundred who play nameless thugs and cops, battling it out in this feature-length melee.
As for those fights, The Raid features some of the bloodiest, impressive, and most inventive action sequences in recent memory. It's a movie packed with highlights and few moments of rest, full of bruising elbows and machetes and machine gun blasts and axes to the neck where most action flicks these days throw stage punches in the wind. This is the unrelenting action tour de force we've been waiting for, and a window into the world of silat, heretofore largely unexplored in film.
Need more proof? Watch a few redband clips below.
The Raid will be released on March 23.
Get more of Movieline's Sundance coverage here.