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BIFF: The Raid reviewed!

Leo Owen recently attended the Bradford International Film Festival. She picks out the most memorable (for differing reasons), starting with the much-anticipated The Raid



The gritty third feature from Welsh writer/director Gareth Evans is impressive for a relative newcomer and likely to continue marking him as “one to watch”. Returning to the setting of his 2009 film, Merantau, Evans plunges us into a raid in the bustling city of Jakarta where police corruption is rife.

The squad team's mission is to infiltrate drug lord, Tama's, highly secure tower block and bring him down. The idea is simple but the reality more grueling as rival gangs have previously tried and failed. The new recruits must avoid the criminal tenants Tama surrounds himself with and his two manic guards, including the infamous Mad Dog.

Evans is quick to establish all we need to know about his hero, Rama (Iko Uwais) in the first five minutes showing him working-out and saying goodbye to his pregnant wife before placing him alongside other new recruits who quickly gear-up ready for a floor-by-floor attack. The first arrest is in room 101 and within 10 minutes of the film's opening we're part of the action in the squalor and grime of a drug addict's home.

Hints at a personal vendetta their lieutenant has against Tama and a hidden agenda suggest the plan is soon to be derailed and when Tama's police alert is sounded, the squad lose their element of surprise, quickly changing their game play. Early on, we're told the raid isn't official and has not been reported, rendering back-up an impossibility and excusing the film's extreme violence as they desperately fight for survival using any possible means.

Tama makes an excellent Gary Oldman style baddie, first shown brutally executing five men. His sinister tone gives a new meaning to community as he tells his subordinates to “cut all communications and lock it down” while he calls on “the neighbours”. After 30 minutes in his block nearly all the unit are dead and 30 tenants have died but Tama's more concerned about cleaning out personal stashes to cover damage expenses.

Evans' script occasionally delves into action clichés (“Now let's clean up this fucking city…” shouts the squad leader) and suffers from comically translated subtitles but The Raid remains ridiculously enjoyable nonetheless. Fight scenes are full of controlled fury and preposterously drawn-out with machetes, axes, tie wraps and hammers coming out to play. A door frame impaling is likely to have folk wincing while an amusing loud speaker announcement is played for laughs. Tama's guard gets the best line in explaining his preference for more physically challenging foot and fist combat: “Squeezing a trigger is like ordering take-out..

Gunfire illuminates a darkened stairwell during the first show-down and we become part of the action when Evans uses a tinnitus ringing sound and muffled screams to simulate the effect of a squaddies' ear injury. One particularly memorable sequence Jackie Chan would be envious of sees our hero fight multiple criminals while simultaneously propping up a wounded colleague.

 Although, like many action films, the premise of The Raid is an exceedingly basic concept, the final product is far superior than it sounds. One of Evans' characters says “this is ridiculous…” and you can't help but agree, reveling in the absurd body-count of this thoroughly enjoyable and compelling unashamed action flick. Tense showdowns, cleverly choreographed martial arts moves and excessive gun fire are likely to have viewers screaming out in delight and disgust. Evans packs a hell of a lot of pretty powerful punches, not to mention kicks and throws, to create a riveting film that's both brutal and laughable while managing to avoid predictability and happy endings. By the end, our flitting eyeballs are almost as exhausted as Evans' leads.



Distributor: Momentum Pictures    Running Time: 101 mins    Release Date: May 18th