Raid: Redemption, The (US - BD RA/B)
Jonathan checks out the Blu-ray of that awesome movie with that silly title..
Deep in the heart of Jakarta's slums lies an impenetrable safe house for the world's most dangerous killers and gangsters. Until now, the rundown apartment block has been considered untouchable. Cloaked under the cover of pre-dawn darkness and silence, an elite SWAT team is tasked with raiding the safe house in order to take down the notorious drug lord that runs it. But when a chance encounter with a spotter blows their cover and news of their assault reaches the drug lord, they find themselves stranded on the 6th floor with no way out. The unit must fight their way through the city's worst to survive their mission. (From the Sony synopsis)
This review is adapted from my SXSW coverage of the film
I'm a big fan of martial arts films. In high school I was the co-president of a Kung Fu movie club. I watch lots of the stuff, regardless of quality and critical reception. I wouldn't call myself an expert, but it's a genre I'm madly in love with. A while back I saw an Indonesian film from Gareth Evans called Merantau. It had some very impressive martial arts showcasing and creative action sequences, but when there wasn't action occurring on screen it really failed to engage. The same could be said about the first twenty minutes or so of The Raid: Redemption. There is a slow wind-up that lays out some very basic character development. Just enough to let you know what is at risk for the protagonists, and then the movie is on its way. Unlike Merantau, once this flick gets moving it never lets up until the end. You won't find much in the plot to keep your interest during that run time, so those who aren't into martial arts and violent gun play won't find anything to like here, but action junkies will be in a state of nirvana.
Stylistically I had one complaint with the film. The fights are filmed with a perfect mixture of flair and fluidity, but there is some use of shaky hand-held camera movements during the tense, earlier dialogue scenes that annoyed me. The pace and tone of the movie already ramped up the intensity enough, and the unnecessary camera movement became a bit of a headache when it was just people talking in a room. Director Gareth Evans, who also edited the film, admitted during a SXSW Q&A that he likes to shoot everything to a rhythm. The number of hits, stabs or gunshots is all completely deliberate and set to a pattern that gives the action a contagious pulse. It's insanely cool. The fighting in this movie is brutal. Where most martial arts movies might have a few brutal punches to the chest, The Raid will have stabs, met with appropriate wails of pain and bloodshed. It really isn't for the lighthearted. As the movie goes along, the action progressively becomes more raw and basic. It starts off with nothing but guns, but as bullets run out they move onto knives and clubs until finally in the end it is just raw hand-to-hand combat. I loved that touch, but I'm sure the less martial arts-oriented fans will be more bored by the later scenes.
I was admittedly skeptical of the original music from Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) and Joseph Trapanese. I'm pretty far from a Linkin Park fan, but the duo did an excellent job of complementing the action on screen without drawing too much attention to their sounds. Some scenes are filled with almost unbearable tension, like when protagonists are hiding in a wall space while a madman with a machete rapidly stabs along the outside hoping to hit them. The score went a long ways to help build up the suspense. This Blu-ray came with the original audio track for the international release of the movie. I may be biased to the Shinoda/Trapanese score at this point, but I didn't think the original soundtrack worked anywhere near as well. It sounds cheap and there is a lot of dead air where there should be Enormous credit to the sound effects department as well, who can make or break a movie like this. Every stab and punch hurt to watch, and their Foley work really drove the impact home.
Since it's release, The Raid has garnered a lot of hype. Fans have thrown around the words "best action movie ever" carelessly (I'm probably guilty of this), and it makes some people forget that this is a small, low budget movie. Albeit one with huge ambitions. It lacks that production polish that Hollywood action movies come with, but there is so much talent on display from both sides of the camera. The unknown actors are dedicated to selling the fight scenes, and Evan’s directing/editing skills make sure that you see every punch being dealt and received. In an industry where A-list actors get into shaky cam hand-to-hand combat on a frequent basis, a film like this is a breath of fresh air. Watching it for the first time gave me that same electrifying feeling that I got watching Ong-Bak; witnessing Tony Jaa's physical capabilities for the first time. It's definitely not perfect, but this level of intensity and dedication is exciting. I seriously cannot wait to see what Gareth Evans and his team do next.
The Raid is not what I'd call an attractive movie. It takes place in drab, slimy apartment corridors and darkly lit stairwells. The setting is a wonderful match for the tone, but it's not easy on the eyes. You'll find no Zhang Yimou style painterly wardrobes and natural settings. On top of that, it wasn't filmed with the fanciest of HD cameras, so the picture quality leaves a lot to be desired. Dark scenes (a lot of the movie) give way to a multitude of artefacts; blocky digital noise and muddy grey black levels being the most distracting of them. If you'd like an example of how it looks at its worst, check out the third screen cap. There are brighter scenes that look considerably better, and when the camera stays still to focus on something, you can tell you're looking at an HD image. For the most part it resembles something close to 1080p video on YouTube. But all of these downsides are very much inherent to the source material, and I recall seeing all of these shortcomings each time I saw the movie in theaters. So in actuality, this Blu-ray transfer is a faithful representation of the film.
Sony has included a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for both the English dub and the original Indonesian language tracks. The English dub track is unfortunately the default one, but its easy enough to switch over. As mentioned in the review, viewers also have the option of watching the movie with the original soundtrack, but I'd only recommend doing that for curiosity's sake. Definitely go with Shinoda's score for your first viewing. The budgetary constraints of The Raid are evident in its audio mix. The sound space and LFE channels are utilized appropriately during action scenes, filling with gunfire. The effects don't sound very spaced out and dynamic, but thrown together. It works well enough though. The actual quality of the sound effects varies throughout the film, with some gunshots just coming off as flat. There are a few neat little touches. I liked hearing a head crushing into a tiled wall come out of the side channel. Non-action scenes lack any of sort of ambient noise to make them feel like real environments. Shinoda's score is the primary advantage of Blu-ray technology on this track. It sounds great and fills in the gaps when there isn't much else happening with the mix. Like the video transfer, this audio track doesn't come close to pushing the limits of Blu-ray technology, but it's serviceable and has a few nice little surprises along the way.
Special features kick off with an Audio Commentary from Director Gareth Evans. He constantly talks during the movie and has no shortage of things to say about what is happening on screen. He talks a lot about the ideas that lead to certain scenes and his inspirations (he likes Takashi Miike and Takeshi Kitano), and also details out some of the film's cultural touches. During action scenes he talks more about the shooting process and the advantages of being both the director and editor. It's mostly a technical commentary and Evans comes off as a very thoughtful and detailed director.
Behind the Scenes Video Blogs (HD, 39:32) is next. These clips are all available online and Evans was publishing them while they were working on the movie. I was hoping they would be utilized on this release, but they are a great opportunity to see how much went into the movie and to get a chance to hear from the unknown actors and their experiences. Some revolve around specific sequences and locations, others are focused on behind-the-scenes aspects, like sending the actors to boot camp to train. There are six segments: Boot Camp, Set Location, Courtyard, Drugs Lab, Machete Gang & Corridor, and Post-Production.
Following that is An Evening with Gareth Evans, Mike Shinoda & Joe Trapanese (HD, 40:40): This is a Q&A session following a Cinefamily screening. Evans talks a lot about what he thinks makes a good action sequence and the techniques they used to film theirs. When he tells stories about the dedicated actors getting hurt doing wire stunts, I couldn’t help but think of Jackie Chan's old injury-filled credit reels. Shinoda and Trapanese talk about the process of writing music for a movie, with Shinoda pointing out how its different from writing music for a band and telling his own story. According to Evans, he and the actors spent three months in an office space with crash mats working out the fight choreography and storyboards. I found myself much more entertained and involved with the segment than most Q&A sessions. Fans will eat it up.
Behind the Music with Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese (HD, 11:05) is a short and sweet featurette where Shinoda talks about how he got involved with the film and the collaboration between him and Trapanese. They go into some detail about certain scenes and the ideas they had for them. I love music featurettes like this and only wish it could be longer. Next up is Anatomy of a Scene with Gareth Evans (HD, 02:15), where Evans talks briefly about the hole escape scene in the movie. He shares some inspiration for the scene from John Carpenter's Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13. They show how the camera followed the actor through the hole down to the next level. It's a neat look at a film crew getting creative with a low budget.
In Conversation with Gareth Evans and Mike Shinoda (HD, 11:30) is an interview between Shinoda and Evans. Evans talks about the painstaking filming processes. Apparently they did forty takes a knee hitting somebody in the face. There's also more talk about the score. It's split up into four brief segments: Hard Shoot, Score, Stunts and Themes. After this is Inside the Score (HD, 01:23) which works as a short promo for the score of the film, and that’s all. There is no narration or information given.
My favorite feature is probably Claycat's The Raid (HD, 02:56) which is a short available on YouTube from a guy who made a short version of The Raid with claymation cats. It's hilarious, creative, and ultra-violent. The Raid TV Show Ad (Circa 1994) (HD, 00:44) is a strange little ad presented like an old television commercial for an anime version of the film. Lastly there is the [i]US Theatrical Trailer (HD, 02:06).
The Raid: Redemption won't engage you on a storytelling level, but it compensates for its limited plot with a wealth of brutal action sequences that will delight martial arts fanatics. It will fit comfortably on my shelf next to classics like Hard Boiled and The Legend of the Drunken Master. The Blu-ray presentation is faithful to the low-fi source, but never takes much advantage of the format. There are plenty of delightful special features though.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Release Date: 14th August 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Indonesian/Bahasa , DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish (Castilian), Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish (Latin)
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin)
Extras: Audio Commentary from Director Garreth Evans, Behind the Scenes Video Blogs, An Evening with Gareth Evans, Mike Shinoda & Joe Trapanese, Behind the Music with Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese, Anatomy of a Scene with Gareth Evans, In Conversation with Gareth Evans and Mike Shinoda, Inside the Score, Claycat's The Raid, The Raid TV Show Ad (Circa 1994), Theatrical Trailer, UV Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
Genre: Action, Crime and Thriller
Length: 101 minutes
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