Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Raid: Redemption (2012) *½

R, 101 min.
Director/Writer: Gareth Huw Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni, Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Satrya, Iang Darmawan, Eka ‘Piranha’ Rahmadia, Verdi Solaiman

“The Raid: Redemption” has been touted as “one of the best action movies in decades!” according to it’s promotional poster. It does have some pretty damn good action sequences in it. It’s also completely silly, utterly ridiculous and downright stupid. Let’s put aside the fact that it’s U.S. distributor felt it was necessary to add the word “Redemption” to the title for no apparent reason. This movie is not only preposterous to the degree that it’s nearly laughable, it is executed with utter seriousness. It is needlessly and pointlessly dark, poorly written, and acted as if every moment were an urgent dash to the exit, which is what it would’ve inspired in me had I seen it in theaters.

To be fair, throughout most of the film’s running time the heroes are trying desperately to escape the high rise apartment complex they’ve raided to take down a notorious crime kingpin. But, that doesn’t excuse acceptance of poor performances just because it’s an action picture. Of course, you also have to look at what the actors are given, and I’m sure the dubbed translation leaves something to be desired.

You’ve got a rookie cop who’s picked for this assignment. His brother just so happens to be the kingpin’s brains. The cop who arranged the assignment is corrupt and nobody else knows they’re there. Really? That’s the best of the clichés they could come up with. It makes no sense whatsoever that this corrupt cop would try to attack this kingpin’s fortress without orders to do so. What does he hope to gain from this? If he is a regular at the kingpin’s operation, as the kingpin indicates at one point, wouldn’t he have some idea of what a bad idea it is to invade the kingpin’s home turf? It’s all just a spindly drycleaner’s coat hanger upon which to hang the action.

One sequence in particular really bugged me. The bad brother gets into an elevator at one point and sends another enforcer down the stairs. Meanwhile, a big action sequence is taking place on one of the floors they’re going to. A good ten minutes passes as the action plays out. Then the camera returns to the elevator. It’s been like ten minutes and they’re still on the elevator? Is this the slowest elevator on the planet? Couldn’t the director have intercut these sequences at least to give the impression that the elevator didn’t just sit there in suspended animation for ten minutes? That’s pretty basic filmmaking.

Obviously this movie is only intended to be an action extravaganza. The action sequences are meticulously choreographed and fairly well photographed, except when the settings are too dark. The action is original to the extent that the production seems to be striving for the horror film ideal of creating strange new ways to kill people. While this was all fairly expertly done, I still found myself bored by some of these action sequences. Many of them go on too long, especially the final battle between the two brothers and the kingpin’s enforcer. There is never any sense that all this fighting is exhausting these men or that any of the blows are causing any damage beyond the point of taking one person out of the fight long enough for another to land some blows.

This is not good action filmmaking. It’s lazy and sloppy. Any movie where the plot serves the action instead of the other way around tends to wear after a while. This one gets old faster because the non-action elements are so ridiculous.

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