Despite having a reputation of not liking films without subtitles (which incidentally this film has) and not being interested in things that blow up, I like to think that I can appreciate a good film whatever the genre.
The action genre is something that seems increasingly difficult to do well. CGI replacing stunt work takes any feeling of engagement away from the viewer (Die Hard 4.0 guilty as charged). Or even in the case of CGI actually working well, the frenetic visual style that dominates today’s cinema makes it very difficult to see what is going on (Michael Bay is one of the main offenders in all of his films).
So it was with this sense of trepidation that I stepped into the cinema to see The Raid, from the trailer (see John’s review for the link!) it looked good, if a little derivative of Ong Bak and its ilk. On leaving the cinema I can confirm that although there are similarities, this is a not bad thing. Gareth Evans manages to fuse an eastern style of martial arts film with a more Hollywood approach to action films. Being that the film is set in a tower block it would be redundant to mention the obvious Die Hard influences more than in passing.
Going back to the visuals, yes the film is frenetic and the action incredibly fast paced but it is shot almost flawlessly, there is no point during the (many) fight scenes where the audience cannot see every punch connect and bone break. And mark my words bones break a lot, it is a very violent film but I would argue all the better for it, visceral would be an understatement.
There is a decent enough plot thrown in which gives the characters some much needed depth and motivation although the focus is definitely on the superb action scenes. In all honesty it’s a pleasant change for an action film to contain any sense of character at all in this day and age.
Another plus point for me was the outstanding sound design, the effects and the music are used to great effect to compliment the on-screen and ratchet up the tension to almost unbearable levels.
Overall though it’s all about the visuals and frankly the action is stunning, the film is genuinely exciting from start to finish and has raised the bar for the action genre overall. Now can we have some more Indo/Welsh action films please!