“Okay, listen up. Our target is Tama Riyadi. I’m sure most of you know who I’m talking about. This man has become something of a legend in the underworld… I don’t care how big he is or who is behind him, he must be stopped. That enterprising f**k’s been renting out rooms like it’s an apartment, to any low-life piece of sh*t looking to keep his head down. Our mission is simple: we go in, and we take him out!”– Joe Taslim (Jaka) in The Raid: Redemption (2011)
Today I am posting about a recent movie rewind with my brother Jeff. A rewatch of one of, if not the best, action films I have ever watched; The Raid: Redemption. It’s funny; in 2014, my brother called me and told me he had a movie for me to watch. It was a foreign language film from Indonesia, and he explained the premise of the film thoroughly and succinctly. It sounded good, but I decided to hold off on watching it. In the summer of 2017, I finally sat down and watched it. Oh my, I was both amazed, transfixed, and shocked by the viewing experience. The movie was fantastic. I quickly called my brother, provided my deepest apologies for not watching it sooner, and owned the fact that my older brother was, in the end, correct about suggesting this film.
A few years after my first viewing, and leaning into the weekly movie chats my brother and I have engaged in since the pandemic’s start, I asked Jeff to do The Raid rewatch. He, of course, said yes. As I am sure you are well aware, I do not do standard film reviews. I do, however, like to reflect on specific films or genres of film or some aspects of the cinematic experience. I often discuss those films with a story, an event that initiates a need or wish, to explore those films again. I welcome any opportunity to relive or recall a specific film’s viewing experience. I did that with Trollhunter in October and Anna and the Apocalypse in December. Today, I do that with The Raid: Redemption. As film critic Chase Whale said, “My only complaint about The Raid is that it ended.”
The Raid: Redemption is a perfect example of the connection I share with Jeff and our mutual love of cinema. Jeff and I have watched and discussed over forty movies since April 2020. My post, POP! Culture on Repeat provides an excellent background to our weekly chats and the Bill Simmons’ The Rewatchables podcast on Spotify that inspired our conversations, which in turn inspired a couple of my movie blog posts I previously mentioned. In the end, these weekly chats allow us the opportunity to explore movies we have watched and want to rewatch with a more critical eye. One such film was The Grey, released in 2011, which we watched before our The Raid: Redemption chat.
The Grey, released in the same year as The Raid, is incredible. While starring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo stole the show and elevated his acting career. It’s interesting because my brother Jeff and I choose to watch and discuss The Grey since we wanted to watch a “cold film.” It was the end of February in New England, so it seemed appropriate. The cinematography, the original score, and the incredible pace amazed me while watching this film. The Grey, to me, is an impressive film and introduced me to Frank Grillo, who, after his performance in Warrior, is an actor I bought stock in, and I am seeing a return on that initial investment. Grillo is impressive. With a captivating performance as Crossbones in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, and Avengers: Endgame, or starring roles in The Wheelman, two Purge films, or popular show Kingdom, his career is only getting better.
But why discuss The Grey or Frank Grillo? While there is a stellar sequel to The Raid, titled, The Raid 2, there will supposedly be an American version of the first film, which has changed slightly and possibly renamed Zeno. The director slated to helm the “remake” is Joe Carnahan, who directed The Grey. What actor is attached to lead this American remake of the Indonesian masterpiece? Frank Grillo, the one and only. The Raid, American version, would be their third collaboration after The Grey and the intense, funny, and action-packed “Groundhog Day” scenario film, Boss Level, where Grillo keeps dying, but with style and superb narration! Grillo and Carnahan clearly work well together. The Raid is groundbreaking and memorable, but I am optimistic about The Raid remake. As long as Carnahan and Grillo are attached, with the original writer/director serving as an advisor, I will keep an open mind.
On February 28, 2021, my brother Jeff and I got together on ZOOM for our rewatch conversation. In the year we have done these movie chats, we selected relatively few action films, but in January, with The Rock, and in February with Die Hard with a Vengeance, we stepped up our game. When we watched The Grey and then The Raid, it took our viewing experience to an entirely new level and pumped up the intensity. Sure, we could have discussed the John Wick trilogy, or Equilibrium, or Kill Bill Vol. 1, when she faced the “Crazy 88” – all share a similar vibe and style with The Raid. Still, none of them are #ProAwesome!
What is #ProAwesome? Well, in my chat with Jeff, I awarded The Raid an A+ grade. I mean, if you like action films and if you enjoy movies like John Wick, then watch The Raid. At this point in my chat with Jeff, I mentioned how, generally, I wouldn’t say I like ultra-violent films, and therefore I am not pro-violence. At that moment, Jeff agreed and said it’s not about the violence, but instead, he is pro-awesome. That provided a moment of deep laughter. Jeff ended with the fact that he is happy this film did not come out when he was in high school, or he may have watched it over and over again. Instead, he saw it for the first time in his early thirties, when he could enjoy it and still lead a productive life. The Raid is not a nostalgic movie, but it doesn’t need to be. Let’s begin our The Raid: Redemption rewatch discussion with my brother Jeff.
⚠️ Spoiler Alert ⚠️
The Raid: Redemption Overview
The Raid might be an intense film, a violent movie, but it is the type of film that illustrates, with all its essence, the kind of film I want to discuss in these movie-oriented posts. Here is the IMDb description: “A S.W.A.T. team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.” Simple, yet clear, and perfect. A short and clear description and precisely what one wants when gently putting in the DVD, selecting the original Indonesian language track, blasting the surround sound speakers, and enjoying the intense ride of mayhem. With a body count of 121 (John Wick had 77), The Raid is a movie you can only see first once. As a fan of the John Wick franchise, which started in 2014, and action as a film genre, those that include the martial arts style of action in The Raid are my favorite.
I am supportive of well-designed and entertaining cinema, and The Raid fits that mold, and it might have broken the mold. Awarded Best Midnight Madness Film at the Toronto Film Festival and an Official Selection at Sundance Film Festival and SXSW Film Festival, this film has superb pacing, incredible action sequences, haunting cinematography, and a heart-pumping score by Linkin Park co-founder and band member Mike Shinoda, as well as Joseph Trapanese. He composed the score for nearly a hundred films like Mads Mikkelson’s 2018 film Arctic and 2021 Netflix film Finding ‘Ohana, which I adore for its homage to The Goonies.
The Raid is not an ultra-long film, clocking in at one hour and forty-one minutes. The pace is lightning fast, but not overwhelmingly. Instead, the film moves quickly with a justified authority while not sacrificing the plot. This aspect is one both Jeff and I appreciated. It allowed the viewing experience to be, well, action-packed and intense, even if you, the viewer, feel drained afterward. Jeff argued that if someone told him the film was 75 minutes, he would believe it. But, if someone said The Raid competed with the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League, supposedly four hours long, that would have convinced him. The sense of time was disarming. Jeff and I felt there was no, as they say, “fat on the bones.”
With a 7.6 rating on IMDb and 86% Critic Rating on Rotten Tomatoes, declaring it Certified Fresh, and a fan score of 87%, The Raid is undoubtedly popular and earned a strong cult following. Those ratings, according to Jeff, are considerably high for a film hailing from Indonesia with no big-name actors and an estimated concluding cost of 1.1 million dollars. Even so, it generated 9 million in revenue, thus building, ultimately, a game-changing film. The director/writer, Gareth Evans, was immensely successful in drawing out his actors’ talent and strengths, whose various combinations of martial art expertise included Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Pencak Silat, an indigenous fighting style in Indonesia. The fighting styles are amazingly interwoven to produce powerful, entertaining action scenes. Evans, who did V/H/S/2 in 2013, The Raid 2 in 2014, and the Netflix film Apostle in 2018, and the UK miniseries Gangs of London in 2020, marched forward after The Raid’s success and, is the pinnacle of his career, at least so far. Elite cops, trapped in a building with a merciless mob boss, as ruthless criminals hunt them, and they need to escape – that is a simple but effective plot. The film, to be honest, does not need or require a complicated story. Its narrative is acceptable, helped by, yes, some cliché twists that ultimately make sense, but it is best when focused on the intense action sequences.
While Evans helms The Raid, he is not alone. The actors are excellent. While there are 119 actors credited, there are only a couple worth mentioning here. As the film’s leader, Iko Uwais as Rama is fantastic, a strong presence, and someone whose career I follow. His scenes are the more intense and enjoyable of the entire film. I will focus on some of these scenes later, but Uwais is the master of silat, a traditional Indonesian martial art, and his skills are impressive and incredible to observe. His acting is superb, even if the dialogue of the film is limited. I watched his remarkable performances in The Raid 2, Headshot, and The Night Comes for Us, but my introduction to him, and the film’s style, in The Raid is what I will always fondly remember. Another major actor of note is Joe Taslim, who stars in The Night Comes for Us, but here portrays Jeff’s favorite character, Jaka. Both Jaka and Rama are clear protagonists; one a rookie, Rama, and the other as seasoned captain, Jaka. They both want to do what is right as members of this elite S.W.A.T. team. Their goal is to bring down the proverbial “boss” Tama, played brilliantly by Ray Sahetapy. Tama is your typical “mob boss,” but played with restraint, even slightly mellow at specific points but is maniacal, vicious, and unrelenting, in how he engaged and punished the police force and those he distrusts.
Two good guys and one ruthless monster, but there is one more antagonist who rounds out the four best actors and characters in the film. The last one is Mad Dog, played by Yayan Ruhian, who is downright badass. His Pencak Silat skills, which he supposedly used to train the Indonesian Presidential Security Force in real life, are incredible. Watching his fighting scenes, which have since gained popularity by his presence in John Wick 3, was like watching a master painter, composer, or sculptor demonstrate their craft. Truly incredible to watch and one of the best overall performances of this movie, even if he represented a brutal villain who sought to take down Rama and Jaka. Most of his scenes are examples of rewatchable moments. In a movie with limited but well-used dialogue, Mad Dog had some of the most memorable lines, including, “Pulling the trigger is like ordering takeout. This is what it is all about. This is the thing. This is the pulse. This is what I do.” A terrible villain can quickly derail action films. Finding your Alan Rickman, as Hans Gruber, from Die Hard is often a needle in a haystack. You want someone who is a formidable foe for Rama and Jaka. Mad Dog and, to an extent, Tama achieve this believable position.
One area Jeff was impressed by was the sense of tension the movie produced, especially early when the S.W.A.T. team engaged in a gun battle with the criminals in the building. Initially, I enjoyed the film’s intensity more when employing hand-to-hand martial art fighting. Still, Jeff sold me on how the director used slow motion, light, closeups, sound, and emotional intensity, in these shootout moments. Jeff was also amazed by the film’s low budget, which showed Evans’s capability as a prominent film director. Some of the camera work, editing, and sound illustrate a film that, on the surface, looks more expensive. The exciting part of the follow-up film, The Raid 2, was that you got to see what Evans could do with a bigger budget. He certainly delivered. Evans somehow maintains a level of intensity, with little levity, for not one film, but two, and the first film entirely taking place in one building. Can I maintain the same intensity in this blog post? Let’s find out, but I doubt it!
Most Rewatchable Scene
For those who are unsure of what constitutes a rewatchable scene, I have described it in a few previous posts, like Trollhunter and Anna and the Apocalypse. Suffice to say, a rewatchable scene is one you can’t miss, look forward to during your rewatch, or if you have things to do, but this scene comes on the screen, you will do nothing except sit and watch until it’s over. I hope that helps because the following scenes from The Raid do all of that, and it starts with the opening scene. I know the types of film scenes my brother enjoys the most. It was of no surprise when offered the opportunity to go first, Jeff selected the three-minute cold opening montage. Jeff loves a movie montage, and whenever we discuss a film with one, he immediately nominates it as a rewatchable scene. Every single time, without fail. While this is hilarious, in The Raid, it is justified.
We open with Rama, our main character, leaving home in the early morning for his mission. He is training, hitting a bag with speed and ferocity, but the viewer sees him kiss his pregnant wife and talk to his father about bringing someone home. This film is action-packed, but here a subplot is teased. All is not as it appears. Jeff and I thought this was an excellent, slow, quiet opening as we prepared for the subsequent mayhem. The van scene, shortly after this, plays a similar role, yet with slightly more intensity. We meet Jaka, leader of the S.W.A.T. Team, and the viewer obtains information helpful to understanding the plot of the film and the police’s mission. In a cut-away scene, the audience meets Tama, whose treachery the team will soon confront. Together these moments build an incredible opening introduction.
Here we are in the building, and in a lengthy scene, Jeff called the stairway assent/assault. After securing several floors in secrecy, the S.W.A.T. team confronts a young boy who runs to warn Tama. It is a brilliant scene that includes an incredible slow-motion sequence as the “lookout” is gunned down but through a door. Even so, he warns another youth, who runs and alerts Tama by hitting an intercom button, which sets off a series of tense moments, including excellent sound editing as Tama locks down the building. As the tension amongst the S.W.A.T. team leadership increases, they realize their mission is off the books, and therefore to survive, they have to do it themselves. Such a gripping scene, and when it cuts away from the S.W.A.T. team back to Tama as he talks to Mad Dog ordering him to cut communications, you know that insanity will transpire, and it is clear the criminals have the upper hand and the high ground. Both Jeff and I nominated this scene for its well-used slow-motion camera work that created a powerful visual impact. For the viewer, as Jeff said, it’s game on from this point forward.
Flash Explosion and Intense Slow Motion
In a shorter but far more intense scene, the S.W.A.T. team, in the hall of the building, is ready to blast through a door when Tama turns on the building loudspeaker to relay a creepy message to the team and his residents. Now the movie is taken to a new level, “boss level,” you could say. Tama offers free rent to anyone willing to fight the S.W.A.T. team, apparently 99% of the building. Evans uses ingenious slow motion, unique camera angles, and cool shades of light and dark to create a shotgun blast giving away the team’s position, allowing the criminals to lay siege from an elevated floor. The camera’s focus on the faces, at that precise moment, of both the criminals and Jaka, who senses the dread, is fantastic and heart-pumping intense. It’s a brutal scene and one illustrating that the film’s pace will either maintain a high level of intensity or increase it. Our heroes are in trouble.
In an already intense film, get ready to pump up the pressure. As the S.W.A.T. team flees into an apartment, they fight off people, get shot by snipers, and repeatedly swing an axe to break through the floor to jump down. After jumping down, they battle with residents and continue this routine as the camera follows in some wicked awesome ways. Allowing the camera to move freely and provide angles in difficult and cool positions makes the viewer feel as if they, too, are dodging bullets, bad guys, and fleeing by jumping into apartments below. It is a wonderfully constructed scene. Mayhem is around the S.W.A.T. team and is disarming for the audience, as well as entertainingly confusing. At one moment, Rama takes a propane tank, puts it in a fridge, and then shoves it toward the door, causing a massive explosion, thus triggering a few muted moments in the film. Evans uses a tactic, on two occasions, similar to Steven Spielberg, who, during the opening D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan, muffles the sound with alarming effect. It is a powerful tool, and Evans used it well. Taking sound out of the game, briefly, even as mayhem ensues, and in a film where the sound is vital, is a pretty bold move.
Rama vs. Everyone
Rama ascended to the floor above and walked down the hall with one injured team member, as the rest of the S.W.A.T. team is hiding elsewhere. At one point, a door opens, and a large group attacks Rama, and as he drops his partner, he begins a lengthy, brutal, and insanely impressive fight. The entirety of this scene is in the narrow hall, and it is purely Rama fighting, stabbing people in their quads, and straight-up bouncing off walls, and, well, you need to watch this scene. The martial arts the scene displayed and the speed, bluntness, and voracity of the fight sequence were intense and exhausting to watch. Rama’s overall fight choreography and Matt Flannery, the Cinematographer, photography of the scene, were incredible. Jeff did argue that this was not an easy few minutes to watch. He questioned what Rama had against people’s quads since he stabs, tears, and slices at least eight guys in that manner.
The hall fight is a brilliantly sequenced scene, with a hell of a lot of hand-to-hand combat. It was one of the more brutal scenes and far worse than anything in John Wick, which, again, I enjoyed. You’re the best, Keanu. We should hang out! Funny enough, this was not the last time a fight took place in a hall. The next time was with another gang led by a guy with a machete. Still, the result was the same. People died in horrific ways; one guy stuck a back landing on a railing, and another guy had his neck impaled on a sharp door frame as Rama, in a reverse “superman” motion, or a smooth reverse RKO, flew backward with beautiful grace and fluidity, but the result was graphic. The scene ended with Rama holding onto the machete leader as he jumped out the window. He fell like ten stories, killed the machete guy, but walked away into another apartment from the fire escape, a little winded. Badass!
Jaka vs. Mad Dog
Following that scene, Jeff and I were pretty speechless and wondered what death, caused by Rama, was worse. Inevitably inspiring way too much laughing, we quickly went to the next scene, another fight sequence. This time there is no Rama. Instead, it is Jaka and Mad Dog. By this point in the film’s narrative, Jaka is a fan favorite, and you root for him, but this fight does not go as planned. It starts brilliantly, with Mad Dog pointing a gun at Jaka, but he eventually puts it down and takes out the clip. Why? He does this so they can fight, hand to hand. This moment is, indeed, one of the best and most rewatchable moments of the film.
The fight’s position in the movie is perfectly timed, and as Jeff said, the movie did an excellent job showing that Mad Dog is dangerous. The film has set up Jaka as our “innocent” hero, but his inevitable death at Mad Dog’s hands is a terrible blow for the viewer. You wonder if anyone from the S.W.A.T. team, outside of Rama, will survive. As Jeff and I said, it was like losing Micheal Bean in The Rock, too soon and not what we wanted, but the fight between Jaka and Mad Dog was legendary. It was, in a way, beautiful in how both actors showcased their martial art talents. Overall, Evans scripted an incredible fight sequence with great tempo, emotional drama, strange but workable levity, and a moment I look forward to the most when I rewatch this film.
There are two more rewatchable scenes, one where Rama fights on a table in a meth lab. Another is the pivotal moment of the film, where Rama and Andi, played impressively by Donny Alamsyah, engage in a devastating three-person martial art fight against Mad Dog. This particular scene includes a chain, a crank, and an indestructible light bulb. In the end, both Jeff and I argued that even though Rama’s two hall fight scenes were amazing, the fight between Jaka and Mad Dog had the emotional impact that we were looking for and want from this type of film. Its rewatchability score is off the charts. In the end, Jeff nominated the stairwell assault, the vertical escape, and Jaka vs. Mad Dog, and I selected Rama & Andi vs. Mad Dog, Rama in the hall, and Jaka vs. Mad Dog. In the end, the winner was Jaka vs. Mad Dog.
Best Heat Check
Best Heat Check is the best category, but please read my post, Top 6 Movie “Heat Checks” to understand it further. The Heat Check award is bestowed upon the actor whose performance is incredible but does so with fewer scenes. In films like Bong Jong Ho’s Snowpiercer, Tilda Swinton brings the heat, in Mike Judge’s Office Space, the heat was thrown from John McGinley and Paul Wilson as “The Bobs,” and in, as I alluded to before, Michael Bay’s The Rock, it went to Mr. Heat Check, Michael Bean. With The Raid, there were only two people worthy of being nominated for this coveted award. It certainly wasn’t “Machete Guy,” portrayed by Alfridus Godfred. He had an opportunity to be a formidable opponent to Rama but brought an intensity that, at times, was unbelievably high. As Charlie, in Guy Ritchie’s 2000 film Snatch, Jason Ninh Cao was similar in his ability to inject far too much magnitude into his performance, but with Charlie, I am grateful. It was hilarious, over the top, fun to watch, but absolutely insane. Like Cao, Godfred did not get the coveted award, because as the saying goes, “less is more.”
That is why Joe Taslim as Jaka and Yayan Ruhian as Mad Dog were put forward for Best Heat Check. While Jeff and I enjoyed Ray Sahetapy as Tama for not overdoing the mob boss stereotype, I nominated Mad Dog, and Jeff endorsed Jaka. Let me start by saying Mad Dog owned this role and therefore threw a tremendous amount of heat. One, his few lines of dialogue are fantastic and entirely within the character arc. Two, in his fight scenes, Mad Dog is the best fighter and, while you are rooting against him, you cannot help but enjoy the performance and his skills. Jeff’s reasoning for supporting Jaka is simple; he argued that a large film component was his emotional investment. Jaka is, according to Jeff, the grounding mechanism of the film, the team he represents, and the overall flow of the central plot of the movie.
When Jaka goes down, Jeff said, it’s a high watermark of the film. The film is still outstanding, but it is missing a critical emotional element, which Jaka embodied. For someone to have that much sway on the tempo, pulse, and “feel” of the film is worthy of being crowned Best Heat Check. While the fight between Jaka and Mad Dog is the most rewatchable, Mad Dog goes on to fight in a significant scene with Rama and Andi, and the intensity of that scene is not as palpable as it was with Jaka. Jeff felt, therefore, that while Rama has ulterior motives, a key surprise plot point, it is Jaka who is the true hero, protagonist, and in the end, the innocent. His loss is all the more crushing and disturbing in this light. Trust me we loved, Iko Uwais as Rama, so this is not a slight. He could not be nominated since he is the star of the film, while Jaka is not. Between Jaka and Mad Dog, Jaka wins. He is the good guy trying to bring down the bad guy. Jeff 100% sold me on this argument, so Jaka, Joe Taslim, is our Heat Check winner for The Raid: Redemption – well deserved.
Who Won the Movie?
While each main actor was perfect, the writer/director Gareth Evans won the film. After all these years, his writing and directing are what I consider impactful. The acting is incredible, but Evans’ choices regarding how he crafted scenes, built the tempo through light and sound, the score, and his masterful fight sequence design overall, are imprinted on this film and unable, rightly so, to be dislodged. As the director/writer, the category is Evans to lose since it is genuinely his artistic approach. However, he can’t do what he did without the martial arts experience and performance of actors like Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian, and the impressive extras.
Combining all of these entities, Evans did what was required, and the follow-up, The Raid 2, justifies his winning The Raid. His choices, direction, and approach will continue to be what I remember most of this film, at least in terms of the film as a comprehensive and cohesive form. It’s complicated yet straightforward, violent yet artistic, and intense and emotional. For an hour and forty-one minutes, Evans is in control, and you are not going anywhere. Incredibly, The Raid 2 can match, maintain, and enhance what he did in The Raid.
The Raid: Redemption is a fun film, and it’s a film that has come to connect my brother Jeff and me over the years. Not necessarily because of the content, but instead about the action, absurdity, and intensity of the film. He had asked me to watch it, and I balked. When I did, I was amazed. I went on to see The Raid 2 and loved it. I am curious to see what the American version of The Raid will be, but if Frank Grillo is, truthfully, attached, and Joe Carnahan does direct, and Evans, in fact, consults, I will be on board to give it a chance. The original will always be there, and I will rewatch it, as well as The Raid 2, many more times. Who knows, maybe The Raid 2 will get a rewatch post as well! 😉