This Sundance punch is a gritty, neo-violent mess of a movie, featuring a cast of SWAT-team members dropping the guns and bringing out classic but hyper-realized hand-to-hand combat. It slides story to the side, deciding to instead focus primarily on the kinetic fight sequences and over-the-top kills. A SWAT team is raiding a drug lords building complex, an untouchable resort filled with only a handful of innocent residents; most are criminals or drug addicts. The objective is to silently rise to the top and remove the drug lord: Except, after being flanked by the maniacally violent, meth-head henchman, the officers realize that it’s not going to be that easy. And in fact probably even a challenge to stay alive.
The voices in The Raid are synced with English voice dubbing. It worked fine for me, especially since there is such minimal dialogue, most of its running time filled with maximum violence. The only thing that I thought could have made a difference is having the voice-overs recorded by Japanese-English actors, instead of straight American voices. The scene transitions are well-done and there are some moments of sheer tension: A blade, cut through the wall that covers the covert officer, positioned directly onto his cheek. The next slash is in his head.
The noirish atmosphere fits well with the dark mood of the tale. Residents are shown lighting and smoking foil-crinkled pieces sprinkled with crystal. There is one guardsmen in the building that is torn between loyalties, a fresh dynamic to insert into an otherwise straight-forward tale. Like the grind house movies of the 60s and Tarantino, this movie strives on imagining the most creatively possible deaths. Smashing a head into a splintered door, using peripheral objects as convenient stakes of death; It’s like a piranha movie with the piranhas replaced with sweaty, knife-bearing psychopaths. Chaos on each floor, and a heightening sense hopelessness, no end in sight.
The movie is very impressive in its editing techniques. Dark-lit halls reveal a mob of gun-wielding henchman; and then pounding, vibrating music as the bullets soar through the air. The filmmakers make use of slow motion, and an insanely intense shootout brilliantly constructed with a shaky cam to match the chaos of it all. At times, though, it cuts to so many places that appear so similar to the last that it becomes hard to keep track of who’s who. With the characters being introduced very briefly at the beginning, the impressions aren’t very long-lasting, but the magnificently choreographed fight skills shine through and clear. It’s definitely not a movie for everyone, but such a thing doesn’t and shouldn’t exist: If you like skillfully designed action sequences and over-the-top violence, it’s safe to assume that you’ll thoroughly enjoy The Raid.