The Midnight Madness portion of the Toronto International Film Festival is best described as a “kick to the face,” a collection of ten genre films that work their way from horror to traditional martial arts, and everything in between. The fest kicked off (pun intended) last night with Gareth Huw Evans’ Indonesian The Raid, a powerhouse of action cinema that transcends into something much, much more.
Raise your hand if you’ve seen a horror or action flick that drove you crazy simply because they never took it “all the way.” It happens all too often, in fact, pretty much all the time. The Raid takes a super simple plot and focuses on making an engaging and entertaining film, rather than a thought-provoking one. It’s an action movie, so why the hell is a deep story even necessary? The plot: A team of police raid a building complex taken over by a powerful drug lord.
Similar to [REC] 2, the pic opens inside the police van where Evans builds the mythology of the criminals, and puts their own fear on display. We see police trembling, while others challenge the mission, in general. They’re scared shitless. It all builds from here, as Evans truly understands action cinema and how to build characters. Rule #1: your protagonist must be fallible. Many films make the mistake of turning their hero into Superman; a boring, indestructible machine that just yawns their way through one faceless villain after another (example: see pretty much every single action movie ever made). Evans reteams with the badass, Iko Uwais, who takes one beating after another and can only be described as “John McClane-ish”. Imagine Die Hard, only 100 times more violent and 1,000 times more bloody. Another comparison would be to Rocky IV as Ivan Drago is built up to be this unstoppable machine, and Rocky must use all of his heart to defeat the Russian anomaly. As the police work their way, floor by floor, so do the villains and their abilities. To say that Rocky bumps gloves with Drago is an understatement as the battle is beyond epic…
Speaking of battles…
Brilliantly, The Raid logically works its way through fight choreography that begins with automatic weapons and ends with hand to hand combat (once all the ammo and weapons are gone; and imagine that anything can be used as a weapon). Evans shows that he’s a master of action filmmaking as nearly every sequence is wholly visible – no shaky camera, tight shots or editing – and lets the viewer actually see what the hell is going on. Even more impressive were the on screen SFX work which range from multiple stabbings (chest, legs, eyes, etc.) to poles being jammed into people’s necks and faces being planted onto broken pieces of wood. The Raid is by no means a horror movie, but it plays out like the most epic zombie movie ever created – it’s easily one of the most violent and bloody films in history, yes, EVER. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best action movies ever assembled.
The Raid does everything right, and is so incredibly self-aware in its awesomeness that I envision the filmmakers jacking off to their own movie (I would too). If you’re expecting a kick to the head, instead you should probably expect 42 kicks to the teeth, a roundhouse, 362 punches to the ribs and then two broken legs. The Raid is ultra-cinema, the highest octane of energy you’ll ever see on the big screen. It’s a rush that’s only side effect is withdrawal – and the only fix is to see it again.
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