The Raid: Redemption

Bottom Line: The Raid: Redemption is an excruciating waste of time.

Directed by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Ananda George, Doni Alamsyah, Eka “Piranha” Rahmadia, Iko Uwais, Iang Darmawan, Joe Taslim, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Satrya, Yayan Ruhian

Very rarely do a find a film so tremendously overrated. The Raid: Redemption, known in its homeland of Indonesia as Serbuan maut, has had critics practically bowing down to it since it first reached American soil back in March, with reviews that described it as “sheer action ecstasy”, “a film for which the adjective ‘awesome’ may have been invented”, and “the best action film in decades”. It’s one thing to turn your brain off to enjoy an action movie. The genre has certain undeniable highlights, but it also has the tendency to progress unrealistically. The Raid requires even more, along the lines of shutting off your digestive system. I can enjoy any amount of violence when supported by an intriguing plot and solid acting. Fargo, The Departed, GoodFellas, and Braveheart are all some of my very favorite films. Here’s a film that completely obliterates the already lenient limits of the action genre: Rather than merely lacking realism, plot is taken with a grain of salt. The entire story can be boiled down to just three words: “mindlessly brutal mayhem”. All that is left is an unsophisticated mess of killing, killing, and more killing, all in the name of (guess what?) killing.

That’s gotta hurt pretty bad. But watching hurts worse.

The first two or three minutes consist of a conversation between a SWAT team (have I seen that setup before?). This was the point at which my heart rate was the fastest. We’re being prepared for the inevitable action at this point. But before you can even say “go”, director Gareth Evans is throwing blood at us left and right. He seems to think he’s doing something entertaining, like throwing confetti out of a parade float, but it’s just boring. “Routine” is too generous a description for the way everything works out in The Raid. It’s like the same three-minute beatdown over and over again, except on different floors of the building. I kept waiting for “Level Up!” to appear somewhere on the screen because of how superficially the film resembled a video game. My recommendation: watch the fairly similar Die Hard instead. You can fall asleep after that movie.

9/29/2012 5:59 AM EST – Addendum: I have noticed in the comments section that my early mention of Fargo, The Departed, GoodFellas, and Braveheart was (in Paul Newman’s words) a failure to communicate. Please allow me to take this time to a) apologize and b) provide enough explanation to avoid further confusion. I was not comparing The Raid to any of those films. None of them are very alike. I was merely providing four examples of films that were noteworthy because of how brilliant the plots were, despite the graphic violence. The Raid seems to have some sort of idea that violence IS plot (or vice-versa), and the film is therefore excruciating.



25 thoughts on “The Raid: Redemption

    • Yea, another three minutes devoted to a dissertation about how your comment didn’t even make any sense!

      Is mindless/incessant/unrestrained/ruthless violence what grows testicles, as you seem to point out? I mean, I do have a pair (and if I didn’t, how would you know?), but who knows, another could be convenient. Am I supposed to enjoy this gratuitous, ridiculous nonsense, when it’s often led to homicide? Not to turn my wholesome opinion into disturbed propaganda, but are you thus endorsing homicide?

      Ah, forget it. It was more fun replying to your asinine comment on my “best/worst of the year” list.”

      • It’s not mindless…. it’s a fight for survival for all characters. Plus I am glad a film has offended you. It shows the true power of cinema.

        So you’re saying violent films lead to real violence? Mind = blown. You would love a publication in the UK called the Daily Mail. It’s very popular amongst middle class housewives that share your views on cinema.

  1. Even though this movie was filmmed in my home town and employed Indonesian actors, I still have trepidation about watching it. I think ‘mindlessly brutal mayhem’ is spot on, even just from watching the trailer. I think the excessive amount of blood and gore would put me off, especially if there’s no story. Hmmm, I might end up skipping this altogether.

    • Please skip it. I hold the foreign cinema in higher regards than the American cinema most times for their ability to present the brains we just don’t have. This could have been one awesome “Frankenstein monster” for the director. Instead, it’s more like a Blankenstein monster.

  2. Goodfellas, The Departed, or any of those other films you mentioned shouldn’t be in the same radius of this film because they are completely different in every way. All of those movies you mentioned do have amazing plots and are amazing movies. The Raid is simply a martial arts film with the addition of weaponry. Like any other matrial arts film the story line is pretty straight forward and there’s usually a minor “who cares” plot. This film is meant to be filled with blood and repetitive fighting because that is what most martial art films are. If you look at the film the way you did then I guess yes, it is overrated, but seeing this film as what it actually is, it’s a rekindle of the martial arts genre. And sayimg theres no “level up is wrong as well, they go from stealth, to guns, to fists. Lastly this film is not comparable to Die Hard, Once again because Raid is a martial arts film and Die Hard is simply just an action film with of course a better plot and is not supposed to be like The Raid which is supposed to be bloody in every way possible.

    • Rule number one of film writing: NEVER tell a critic he or she is wrong, because by definition, such statements are wrong. It’s all about opinion.

      Martial arts movies in Asia are very similar to action movies in America, so in my opinion (which I, unlike some, do not try to establish as a fact), Die Hard and The Raid are pretty comparable. Add on the fact that they both involve mayhem around a large building, and they’re comparable all the more.

      Perhaps rather than skimming what I have written and then jumping to your half-baked rants, you should take the time to READ what I wrote, and maybe even the previous comments. I had already clarified with the first commentator that I never compared The Raid to Fargo, The Departed, GoodFellas, or Braveheart, because those aren’t action movies. Go back to the first paragraph and read the sentence rather than just the titles so I don’t have to waste any time copying and pasting it for you.

      I have seen quite a few martial arts films, and I know the style pretty well. It’s not all violence for the sake of violence, one-dimensional characters, and simplistic stories. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” had one of the most spectacular plots I’ve ever seen (I gave it a B- because of the awful dubbing, but if I were to see it in Chinese with English subtitles, it would probably earn an A or an A-). The Raid? Easily one of the worst.

      • Well jumping to assumptions isn’t very polite either because I did take the time to read your review. I apologize for saying you are “wrong” but I’ll restate it and say that I believe Raid did have different levels. I also did read the comments above about you saying you weren’t comparing, and I didn’t say comparing, I simply said “Goodfellas, The Departed, or any of those other films you mentioned shouldn’t be in the same radius of this film because they are completely different in every way.” I just don’t understand why you mentioned those films, that is all. You’re right about everyone having different opinions and once again I apologize for saying you were “wrong” I appreciate the call out. Without knowing anything about this film, I saw the trailer and immediately wanted to see the film because of the action. Even before it was hyped I saw the film in theaters and still loved the film because of its over excessive amount of repetitive action and gore. Crouching Tiger is a martial arts film with an astounding plot, and I haven’t seen the film in a while but I don’t believe the purpose of that film was to be like The Raid, it’s more of a stylistic approach to the genre. I believe every film has a purpose and not everyone agrees with that and also not everyone likes the same movies. I like having debates you learn from different peoples minds and you can understand why some people dislike/like a certain film. No bad blood.

        • Well it seems your love and my hate for this film all boils down to one major detail: incessant violence. 😉

          Sorry I assumed so much. I’m quite thrilled actually that you took time to read my review AND the previous comments. Some people make it clear that they’re just, you know, commenting, by trying to point something out that I or another commentator had already mentioned. Thanks a lot for the thoughtful comments, even if we’re in almost universal agreement.

    • I’m glad you can understand my reasoning. I hated this film so much, I can’t really understand why the hype is so massive. If it’s because of the mindless action being so “fun” (though I beg to differ), then why have so many of Liam Neeson’s and Jason Statham’s movies been received negatively?

  3. Good review Alexander. I wasn’t as harsh as you on this one but I can totally see that it was definitely overrated. I enjoyed it for what it was but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. John Woo has been doing this stuff for years (and better)

    • I’ve read a variety of reviews for this one, which was what made me curious. Yours was one of those that made me think, “All right, maybe it’s worth a try,” when Cabin in the Woods wasn’t available at Redbox. I hear they’re remaking this in America, but I just can’t imagine it. Not that I’ll watch the American version (or the Indonesian sequel), but it sounds like the kind of film that would single-handedly create my “Z” grade.

  4. Well I thought this might be one of thoese fun mindless B-movies. but your review has changed my orignal thought of the film. I’ll put this a bit lower on my list to see this year. Great review.

  5. Hmm, as always I completely respect your opinion but I’m forced to disagree on this one. You’re definitely not the first to think it’s underrated and I understand the reasoning, but the kind of entertainment it is intended to provide just isn’t the same as movies like Goodfellas or Braveheart. Judging it against those superior movies is like judging Madagascar 3 next to The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, just because M3 wasn’t the cultural icon that the Lion King was doesn’t mean that it didn’t achieve in its own right.

    I’m not saying the Raid is anywhere near flawless because it’s not, like the countless entries into the genre before it (Ong Bak, Enter the Dragon, Ip Man) it focuses on the almost dancelike choreography of the fight scenes. anyways, that’s my two cents

    • I never compared The Raid to GoodFellas or Braveheart. It’s impossible, because they’re all completely different films. I did, however, mention those two because they both had great plots, making them fully enjoyable despite the extreme violence. The Raid was difficult and boring for me to watch, because the violence was just put there for the sake of being there, not to advocate for its own plot (if there was one). The characters shallow motives are “kill or be killed”, and that’s all the dumbed down story relies on.

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