Very rarely can a straight action movie excite, these days. It’s a fact: it is becoming increasingly difficult for films to break away from the pack in this tired genre. Enter The Raid: Redemption, an impressive, Indonesian actioner from writer-director-editor extraordinaire Gareth Evans, a film that avoids all of its potential pitfalls with a stripped-down plot, impressive visuals and brutal, stunning action – making it one of the best action films in years.

Gareth Huw Evans has added just enough story to serve Raid‘s breathtaking, brutal and completely original action, inspired by the little-known martial art Pencak Silat. The film opens on Rama (Iko Uwais), a rookie cop preparing for his day. He goes about his morning workout, kisses his pregnant wife, and prepares for his work day. A clock ticks. This opening scene is the most calm the film features, and yet it is claustrophobic, tense.

In just a few, small set-up scenes, the plot is laid out: a small team of elite SWAT forces – Rama included – must enter a run-down, fifteen-story high rise, filled with gangsters and drug lords, to take out the crime lord, Tama (Ray Sahetap) while avoiding an army of henchmen and his brutal and skilled right-hand men, Andi (Doni Alamsyah) and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian).

This simple plot shows how this film is a perfect example of not needing a convoluted set-up or execution to make a good action film. Director Gareth Evans keeps the premise reasonably small and understated, particularly when compared with the excessive and electrifying violent action, which takes up the majority of the film’s 101 minute running time. The violence is uncomfortably brutal, due to the realism of the combat. Thanks in large part to choreography by Uwais and Ruhian, every hit, punch and stab look and sound real. Not only is the action impressive in its realism and execution, but it has something severely lacking from the majority of modern action films: originality.

The acting here is serviceable, although it isn’t given the opportunity to be anything more, as there is very little dialogue (and subsequently few subtitles) to distract from the relentlessly, hard-hitting violence. However, as the body count builds up and the options for the SWAT team seemingly dwindle, Evans adds some interesting, character-driven complications that elevate the stakes of the action in the third act and add a much-needed change of pace to the otherwise non-stop carnage (which, by the end of the film, begins to wear out its welcome).

From the vision, execution, choreography, and editing, The Raid: Redemption is always treading new territory. A wholly visceral and brutal sensory experience, Evans and the movie’s two stars and choreographers have rewritten what modern action can achieve. The Raid: Redemption hits you hard from the onset and doesn’t relent, attacking your senses with the full force of Pencak Silat.

Grade: A-

Rated: R (for strong, brutal, bloody violence throughout and language.)

The Raid: Redemption is currently playing in limited release.

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