Jun 5, 2012

The Raid: Redemption


Quite assuredly, red-band clips or trailers from most necessarily violent action films are always followed with a rush of excitement for said title. This method of delivery involves making an almost whispered promise of at least one especially outstanding scene, the one in which is in question as the video streams or graces the cinema screen. It would be quite the disappointment if that preemptive, in this case, single scene was the only of its kind in quality, whether it be in suspense, bloodshed, or gratuitous feral generosity. It would be of similar character to show the final fight of Flash Point or even The Man from Nowhere, to a pair of virgin eyes for the sake of absorbing salivation for your own esteem's gain, which, admittedly, I am guilty of. Thus was the curse I carried for months after watching a red-band clip from The Raid: Redemption. I feared an all-too real terror of this scene spoiling a key moment that I had built myself up for, so you can imagine the feeling of dread when, during my temporary stay at the cinema while viewing The Raid: Redemption, this scene in particular popped up. But alas, the scene continued without a hitch or hiccup! Gareth Evan's masterful global marketing team knew and approached the limitations of exposure with a certain bravado lost upon most action films and their combined run at arousing attention. It was as if a heavy burden was lifted off of my shoulders and I could open up to The Raid: Redemption. I could let it tell me, without hesitation, all of its little secrets and worry me with all of its woe. You see, for me and most everyone I know who has bore witness to its third world grandeur, The Raid: Redemption marks the graduation of this new blend of international action film. One in which encroaches upon the formula of simple and similarly structured action pieces such as Ong-Bak or The Protector, save for the sparsely seen Indonesian fighting style of Pencak Silat. The two aforementioned Tony Jaa vehicles were met with massive appraise but were also maligned for their doe-eyed absence of thought, whereas The Raid: Redemption wrestles from this stranglehold with a candle of ease that holds steadfast without a flicker or chance of dimming. 

It's become so that I find it difficult to sit and review, in-thought, a post-Raid: Redemption-esque film without finding myself victim of that classic compare/contrast to the next best thing, which is obviously being The Raid. For in its wake, left screaming an army of "boorish males", comes an expectation that might be nigh to match - an obsessive exercise in ceaseless savagery, each minute being more daring than the last and each fight sequence becoming more stylized, choreographed, and calculated. Since the shriek of this Indo-wizardry was heard worldwide, you can be certain that these highly-marketable future Eastern exercises of sweat-soaked exertion won't end with The Raid: Redemption and for that matter, any of its sequels. Many attempts will be made upon their title of champion and these challengers' motives will fall victim to cynical ratings as cinephiles use the schematics of The Raid: Redemption as an impromptu gradebook, cursing while X-ing in heavy red permanent ink, not even bothering to wonder where, or why, it all went so wrong for them. These "substitutes" will only increase in numbers while the action film of our heritages fate relies on the likes of A Good Day to Die Hard and The Expendables and their promised sequels (or should I say squeals, drastic to stay afloat these are, with mild results). The problem falls on Hollywood and their hasty decisions to brand Western audiences as ignorant to the beauty and eccentricity found in foreign styles of fighting. Hollywood will continue to pump out action remakes of popular foreign films with a soulless nod to an alien and titular fighting style. Their repayment plan?  To replace a key diversified system of offense with  sub-advanced grappling maneuvers merged with hyper-edited body blows. You might as well refer to the Bourne handbook for how I imagine The Raid remake turning out, but I digress. Known in its homeland as Serbuan Maut and then internationally as The Raid, the evolution of title didn't quite stop there. Overseas in the American market, The Raid later had "Redemption" tacked on to its title to allow copyright to resume naturally as well as opening up options for a sequel, or in this case, two. Released at Sundance with an alternate score from Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park "fame" and the unfortunately named Joseph Trapanese, this exclusive composition for The Raid served as an occasionally unruly love letter to a film that needed no such grabs for attention, especially from a post-applied promise of being faithful to the images. 

Unfortunately, the faithfulness to the original artistic vision wasn't all in check, as the Western theatrical run felt the need to doll itself up beyond the limitations of an American adrenal-pop soundtrack considering intelligence. Things proved all and good until the simplicity of the electronic score, that followed alongside with the hurried sense of survival, ran out and gave room to the scene-chewing appetite of a mid-chaos dubstep routine which, far dependent on your opinion of the (awful) genre, is most unfitting for a frenetic cinematic scenario, especially if it wants to be taken seriously. But in regards to the U.S. release of The Raid: Redemption, this was close to its only sin. The Raid: Redemption, if to be remembered by a single act, had one thing going for it and that is apart from the luxurious and fruitful sequences of violence, aways from the viciousness of tenant to tenant, and far from the incredible death scenes that will leave your nails clawing at plush. No, what The Raid: Redemption has is an incredible sense of utter helplessness and defeat, a feeling that could not be anticipated from watching the trailer alone. Now, mind you, a trailer that boasted the tagline of "20 Elite Cops - 30 Floors of Hell" refused to give way to the actual gravity of the situation which is a merit to be thankful of. Imagine my surprise when this micro-army of skilled officers were scattered, slaughtered, and slain. The Raid: Redemption, no matter what you may read from genre-waving bannermen, applies well within me as the cinematic equivalent of an old classic arcade-style beat em' up - in particular, Streets of Rage (although a rendition that meets the concrete isolation of Die Hard). You have for potential evidence a small band of aggressive law-abiding citizens battling wave after wave of weapon-wielding rapists, junkies, murderers, and other related fallen ilk. Each character combats his own specific mini-boss, of sorts. The floors of the building can be taken, literally, as levels, and as an added bonus you are also given the architectural despondency of the Silent Hill multiverse. It is no coincidence that the core demographic suited for The Raid: Redemption are 18-32 year old fans (gender not applied as my fiancée was quoted as dubbing the film "a masterpiece") of ferocious competition. Much to their surprise too, is that it is gift-wrapped in a package anonymously sent to "Fanboy". No return address either, hmm.

If you have it within you to embrace such nonchalant acts of treachery, murder, and extreme violence then open your ears, eyes, arms, and tendons to this assault on the senses. The Raid: Redemption can easily be followed and the events can even transpire/unfold to the dull senses of a quasi-intellectual cinema-goer. The Raid is that certain sort of film that you can view once and rely on later as a perfectly competent sound and space filler as you multitask on whatever in-house errand(s) lie on your plate, and in which by some magical method of multimedia memory, The Raid: Redemption can be mentally visualized as well as synchronized alongside the groans and moans of both pools of victims - good and bad. For exceptional physical feats, look no further. You will notice the actions of those depicted on-screen, no matter the side you choose, attempt to disguise themselves as falling under their own category of exceptional heroism but that is never the case in The Raid. Even the rookie SWAT lead, Rama, has an agenda for entering the building and only when their original plan becomes so, for lack of a better word, fucked, does he step up to the plate to ensure the safety of himself and the scattered survivors. Welsh born director Gareth Evans would obviously follow up the enormous critical success of The Raid so in his future we can assuredly see two more sequels to the Indonesian debut and as I mentioned before, at least one American remake. When asked about his plans for The Raid: Redemption's sequel, now tagged with the subtitle ": Retaliation", Evans could only comment about his hopeful inclusion of car chases - "I want to bring car chase elements to it as well. So we have like a cool fight scene where you go inside a car, fighting against four people as it’s speeding along a one-way." Now, I'm all for diversity but the greatest appeal of The Raid was its horrific seclusion - a terrible event sealed off from outside communications or contact. If these men are even remotely allocated to another life-or-death situation, then what is keeping them from turning the wheel. I'm not sure how it could possibly work out without some method of escape but my brows stay curiously and cautiously raised. This beast was meant to be leashed. If you slaver for intense bodily nihilism then look no further. The Raid: Redemption reigns king of overkill - a rare film event in which officers of the law die like dogs while the villains perish under much more honorable circumstances, and that is more bravery than I ever could have expected from such a piece.


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