Every so often, a movie comes along that can’t be adequately described using mere words. The Raid: Redemption is one of those films. The best I can say is that if you like violent action movies, then go see this one.
At its core, it’s a “storming the castle” film. The castle in this case is a plain-looking cement high-rise which serves as a low-rent apartment complex for what must be hundreds of people, but it’s also the not-so-secret headquarters of a huge drug manufacturing and trafficking operation, run by Tama, his henchmen Andi and Mad Dog, and tons of underlings. The residents all know what’s really going on in the building, but fear of Tama and fear of homelessness cause them to at least turn a blind eye to the less legal parts of the operation, and some of them actively try to get in Tama’s good graces by tipping his people off if they see something suspicious. And a large SWAT team amassing outside the gate certainly qualifies.
The bust has been orchestrated by Lieutenant Wahyu (played by Pierre Gruno, who must be at least a distant cousin of G.W. Bailey) and is being led by Wahyu along with Sergeants Rama and Jaka. A lot of the men they brought along are pretty young and inexperienced, but hopefully numbers and firepower will help them out. Unfortunately, they don’t have the advantage in either of those categories, since Tama has a lot of enemies on both sides of the law and this isn’t the first time he’s come under attack. His men are very well armed, have lots of experience, and aren’t hindered by conscience or a need to adhere to the law. But then again, Wahyu isn’t all that concerned with the law himself, since he didn’t bother to get any kind of authorization for this mission, so there’s not going to be any backup if they get themselves into a jam.
There are a few points in the film that are a little light on action, but not many more than absolutely necessary to craft the story for the film. But the rest of the time is full-on hard-core ultraviolence. There are a lot of casualties, and there are a lot of skilled fighters creating interesting ways for those casualties to occur. There’s plenty of gunplay, but there’s also a lot of hand-to-hand (and every other body part to every other body part) combat, and several instances of such awesome brutality that the audience (and I’d strongly recommend seeing it in a packed theater) can’t help but gasp and in unison as an expression of simultaneous disgust and approval. Given that everything happens in a packed apartment building, there are plenty of hallway fight scenes, and some of them rival and perhaps even surpass the infamous Oldboy corridor battle. In fact, the movie is almost a kind of feature-length version of that.
I was both awed and slightly disappointed by film’s climax. It’s obvious pretty early on that there’s going to be a big showdown at the end, but given how much awesome action occurred throughout the movie there’s no way that the climax could match the splendor of what came earlier. And then it did. But then they followed that up with a little too much “wrapping up the story” so that some of the excitement has dissipated by the time the credits start to roll. But if you watch the credits then you can see the sheer number of actors/fighters and the awesome descriptions given to their nameless characters, and you can immediately re-live those scenes in your mind.
I don’t really understand why they chose to tack the word “redemption” onto the title for the U.S. release, since it’s just called The Raid everywhere else, and there’s really not much redemption to be found in the story. But this is a film that’s so incredible to just watch and absorb that you shouldn’t spoil it by trying to think too much about those kinds of trivial details.