The Raid

The Raid is a good film, with some brilliantly done action scenes but its flimsy plot holds it back says JIM ROSS

action Gareth Evans Iko Uwais Indonesia jim ross Martial Arts The Raid

Directed by Gareth Evans


A nuts and bolts action film can be fantastic if oiled with the right amount of story and visual flair. The Raid, fresh off a lot of buzz on the film festival circuit, is a fantastically well-choreographed and good action film. It is far from being simply nuts and bolts, but it lacks enough character and narrative to make it a really great one.

Set in Jakarta (in Indonesian with English subtitles), The Raid follows Rama (Iko Uwais) – a rookie in the local SWAT team, which is set to take on a local ganglord and his goons by storming the tower block which serves as his empire headquarters. Needless to say, it doesn’t quite go according to plan, and a variety of bloody shootouts and fistfights ensues. Jumping around the floors of the tower block, it’s up to Rama to try and make it out alive with as many of his surviving colleagues as possible.

To say there is no plot to this film would be grossly unfair, but it could be written on the back of an envelope and still leave enough room for the plot of Die Hard – a film which Evans cites as an inspiration alongside the Asian action staples of John Woo. The action scenes, however, are fantastically well done. Kinetic and fizzing with intensity, Evans has shot these in a mode that contrasts markedly with most recent Hollywood guff.

Rather than a rapidly cut blur of fists with scissor-happy editing style, The Raid‘s fight scenes are often medium length, wide shots and quite often shot in one take, or at least a longer cut than we’ve become used to in recent years. With the addition of the excellent skills of Uwais and his colleagues, the action on offer is some of the best I’ve come across recently. Often brutal, always engaging.

Sadly, the insubstantial characters and narrative ultimately cause the complete package to feel as flimsy as the various items of furniture destroyed during the film. It is also easy to let some pretty hackneyed dialogue slip past as a result of it being in subtitled Indonesian (“Not without my team!”), and pretty much every man dispensed with, of which there are many, in the first three-quarters is the standard rent-a-goon.

Despite these flaws, Evans has crafted – at least on a visual and action level – a film that takes the Asian martial arts film and marries it with a format and trajectory more familiar to Western audiences. There is definite promise here, but the genuine interest lies not with The Raid but with whether the director and lead actor can build on this, and where they go next. There is talk of a sequel, but, given there was barely enough narrative here to sustain the brilliant action, more of the same would be a waste of clear talent.