One this is now certain, if they do decide to make a new MORTAL KOMBAT movie, I believe I know who should be put in charge to direct. Gareth Evans is a name that I’m guessing now a lot of people had on their radars before the premiere of THE RAID: REDEMPTION (formerly just THE RAID) at film festivals before its eventual pickup and release. The buzz built up pretty significantly as the film already had the stigma of being one of the most amazing action films you will ever see from a variety of different reviewers. I can now say that for the most part people touting the film as a balls to the wall action film were not just blowing smoke, it is indeed a spectacular experience, but one that is not without script issues and some overly generic action problems. However, a few minor gripes aside THE RAID: REDEMPTION is without a doubt an exhilarating and jaw dropping feat in fight staging and choreography. Bonus tidbit- the film doubles as a comedy if you watch it again with the English dubbing.
Evans keeps things simple as the film is nothing more than a SWAT team raiding a multi-level apartment building full of bad guys- and that’s pretty much it. Sure it adds in some minor plot details like the main SWAT member being married and his wife is pregnant and some last act developments that at that point seem somewhat inconsequential, but the thing to focus on here is not story- it’s the incredible fight scenes and nothing more. The SWAT team enters the apartment complex trying to be stealthy but eventually the baddies are alerted of their presence and all hell breaks loose. For the first third of the film there’s a lot of gunplay with dudes just shooting machine guns left and right which eventually becomes pretty tedious and boring- only when the bullets run out and the legs and fists start flying does the action really pick up. I especially appreciate later in the film when a character is literally holding a gun to SWAT member and the dialogue quite explicitly just says, “Screw this, let’s just beat the shit out of each other”- or something to that effect.
I’m not even going to bother dancing around it here, but plain and simple the reason to see this movie is for the hand to hand fights that are littered throughout. There is plenty of gun violence and shootouts at the beginning and at first they are very tense, but after the first couple it becomes very one note and I was ready for something different- and boy did I get it. I may not be well versed in the world of martial arts movies, but holy cow are the fights in this awesome. Not only are a quite a few of the actors phenomenal at pulling off the moves, but the choreography is amazing and the camera work to actually stage and capture them the way they are shot is nothing short of spectacular- borderline genius.
Now for the not so good- the script is extremely generic to the point I really wanted a whole lot less of people moving their mouths and more punching and kicking. This is a dude’s movie and what to most dudes like- blood, bullets and boobs and there’s a big round zero in the amount of the latter so the other two really have to pick up the slack. I hate to do this but it’s a lot like porn- any guy you talk to that’s willing to make eye contact if you ask what’d they’d recommend the vast majority will likely not be doing so because of the deep engaging story- at least I hope. If you watch the film as intended with subtitles in its intended language then it isn’t near as bothersome, but my God I was laughing hysterically on a second go with the English dubbing turned on.
As fast paced and action packed as THE RAID: REDEMPTION is I can’t help but feel that it does go on a little long. Had some of the slower moments been chopped down a little then I think this would have been a truly heart-pounding action flick- actually considering it already is, cutting it down might actually make it even more overwhelming. Gareth Evans without a doubt has an enormously bright future in front of him and I can’t wait to see what he brings us next. In the end though as enthusiastic and as blown away I am about the fighting and the skill at which THE RAID: REDEMPTION was filmed, I can’t help but scale it back slightly due to my issues with the script. The film is still a marvel to behold as an action/martial arts film and most definitely one that should not be missed.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)