“The Raid” tautly paced, endlessly thrilling Indonesian actioner

A group of elite Indonesian cops make their move on a 30-story building stacked from bottom-to-top with vicious, gun-toting drug-lords, who also happen to be masters of obscure hand-combat systems. Sold on “The Raid” yet? Good. Let’s proceed.

“The Raid” is a fast, furious film of absolutely endless action. Of the film’s 100 minutes, I estimate about 85 to be of pure, simple combat. It’s literally everything action fans have ever dreamed of, tied in a tight, well-constructed package by Welsh helmer Gareth Evans. Curiously enough, I can’t seem to tell if the film’s economic storytelling comes from Evans’ conscious decision or lackluster direction. Given how much skill most of the flick is pulled off with, Evans gets the benefit of the doubt.

“The Raid” being what it is, a pure exercise in action, there’s an understandable need to maintain variety in its sequences. Alas, no two fights are the same; variously utilizing the different fighting techniques, automatic weapons, swords, inventive uses of everyday objects (refrigerators and hammers get memorable cameos), and the fact that the characters aren’t much more than a punch or shove away from a 300-foot plunge. What links them all is their resemblance to an adrenaline high, often times provoking a genuinely physical reaction — I caught myself out of breath at moments in the film, flinching at others, laughing at many. Much of this is anchored by lead Iko Uwais, whose considerable charm and martial-arts prowess makes for a truly dynamic, if oft silent, lead.

Evans trims away much of the fat that such a film often wields: gone are the repeated, arbitrary flashbacks to make us “care for” the main character and his backstory, gone is the ridiculous love interest, gone is the incomprehensible camera-work and mismatched editing. Perhaps it’s the fact that this was made for barely a million dollars in Indonesia, but “The Raid” is more savage, more hungry, and more taut than all of its peers. It has no time, no money and no patience for the conventions we’ve adapted to. Just the way I like it. This movie rules. A-

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