The Raid ★★★★

Unapologetically brutal and violent, "The Raid: Redemption" belongs to a genre of movies that I rarely watch and seldom really like: martial-arts films. But this one is different. Following the effective set-up, the remarkable, inventive, kinetic fight choreography and the claustrophobic atmosphere held my attention for the remainder of the movie’s 101-minute running time. Its flaws notwithstanding, this Indonesian film won me over and had me on the edge of my seat on several occasions.

There are more than a few ridiculously exaggerated fight sequences in the movie, such as the climactic fight, which, by the way, goes on for too long, but those come with the territory. Two attempts to add a little poignancy to the proceedings—the opening sequence and a revelation involving the protagonist and one of the antagonists—fall flat, the former more so than the latter.

Writer/director Gareth Huw Evans doesn’t prioritize realism, instead emphasizing the artfulness of certain combat techniques and the resultant bloodshed. While the story is unpredictable enough, it could not have been much thinner and still function properly. The strength of Evans’s slick, intense direction lies in how it makes the viewer forgive the decidedly simplistic plot and the minimal character development, as well as the other shortcomings of the movie.

The experience of watching "The Raid: Redemption" is largely akin to the experience of watching someone else play a video game. Because I am one of those people who can enjoy playing video games vicariously, I wasn’t particularly bothered by that feeling, but others might be.

The actors, all of them male, don’t actually have to do much acting, which might be just as well. Their expert command of martial arts (pencak silat, to be more specific) compensates for a lot, though, and it is kind of fascinating to see the cast members fight one another. As Rama, Iko Uwais has a good screen presence and gets the viewer to root for his character on a superficial level, but seldom does one feel emotionally invested in the protagonist; however, that isn’t strictly necessary for the film to work.