Now coming to the end of its general release, The Raid is an Indonesian action film with a heavy dose of martial arts. Directed by Gareth Evans and starring a relatively unknown cast, the film is set in a Jakarta based derelict apartment building of 30 floors. At the top sits a ruthless crime lord. At the bottom, a 20 strong SWAT team tasked with going floor by floor through the chaos of murderous residents who will try to stop them reaching the boss.
The Raid has not received the attention it deserves at the box-office. This is largely due to its limited release, a non-Western production and those arch-enemies of popcorn and 3D – subtitles. Although it may not be raking in the cash on the big screen, once the word gets around it should receive the attention it deserves.
There have been many memorable action films over the years, and a handful of them have received the cult status The Raid will be looking to achieve. But recent efforts have often let us down due to an over-reliance on short-term attention grabbing techniques such as CGI and epically conceived but not so epically executed set pieces.
Why so many action films fail to impress or live up to their over-advertised hype is often mystifying. There are numerous blue prints from the filmic archive which have truly taken the action genre by the scruff of its neck and produced levels of unadulterated rated 18 joy.
One of the most memorable examples of the near perfect action film is Predator. Predator does not mess around. It has a straight forward plot, a cast of pure machismo, a seemingly undefeatable foe and a director who practically re-invented the genre. Predator is one of the most accomplished action films ever produced. It has an incredibly simple yet effective formula which perfectly suits the roots of the genre and it delivers everything you expect from an action film.
Much like Predator, The Raid takes the necessary elements of the action genre, boils them down and churns out a ‘no frills’ rollercoaster ride of pure escapism in the form of really hard blokes desperately battling for their lives against an enemy who literally kills for fun.
But how else is The Raid similar to Predator in terms of high entertainment? Well let us get the ‘great action film checklist’ out. Does it have a narrative as straight forward as the title suggests? Check. Does it offer non-stop action, gore, guns and more action? Check. How about a good guy to root for who is as hard as nails? Check. What about a nightmarish setting so hard to escape from it makes Alcatraz look like a bouncy castle? Check.
Even the narrative structure is almost a carbon copy of Predator. The film opens with an introduction to our hero who vows to go into the concrete jungle and stop the bad guys. Little does he know the real reason he is being led in to kill the drug baron is so that the morally upside down veteran cop who is tagging along can make a quick buck. As the SWAT team begin to find themselves backed into a corner, they find out they are in a lot more trouble than they first thought.
There is no backup, and they were practically invited into the violent assault course by the big guy at the top.
As with Predator’s simple set-up, The Raid leaves no room for niceties. We are briefly told why the good guys are going in, they do go in and they soon realise they have bitten off more than they can chew. They are then picked off one by one as they struggle to make it over the finish line. The only ones savvy enough to do so are our hero and his injuredpartner (along with the shamed and arrested cop), and the moment they finally make it out of the relentless onslaught of carnage and brutality, the credits role. No messing around. They made it out, job done.
Back in 1987, John McTiernan showed us all how it should be done with Predator. It may have been a long time coming, but Welsh born Gareth Evans may have just come up with the answer of how to emulate a classic.