The Raid: Redemption (Serbuan maut) (2012) (R) ★★★★

Review Date: March 23rd, 2012

We previously caught The Raid: Redemption at this year's Sundance Film Festival. You can watch our video blog here

After experiencing The Raid: Redemption, the definition of modern action movies is up for debate. Suddenly, classifying blockbusters that routinely fill our summers—big superhero clobberfests, end-of-the-world scenarios and other spectacles of epic proportions—feels wrong. Sure, they have action—but nothing on par with what director Gareth Evans (the Wales-born man behind Merantau) in his martial arts extravaganza, choreographed with unimaginable precision and shot with just as much finesse. The Raid squares its fights into a compact apartment high-rise, forcing the fisticuffs to be intimate and brutal. It is ballet with bloodshed, more jaw-dropping than any large-scale battle.

The Indonesian-language film follows Rama (Iko Uwais), a rookie S.W.A.T. team member recruited for an infiltration mission against one of Jakarta's deadliest mobsters, Tama Riyadi. Tama resides at the top of a dilapidated high rise, home to a few tenants and a boatload of mercenaries ready to protect their head honcho. When Rama and his squad arrive to take out Tama, they're quickly discovered, flipping their mission from attack to survival.

Like its spiritual predecessor Die Hard, The Raid peppers its scenario with familiarities that keep us afloat during its non-stop action: Rama's a noble guy who stands up for what's right; Tama shoots the thugs who wrong him through the forehead; the S.W.A.T. crew have just enough personality so that we care when some of them fall to hands of Tama's goons; and the script twists and turns along the road aways traveled by. The Raid operates like a video game, Rama traveling upward, crushing baddie after baddie as he passes each level, eventually confronting the final boss.

The concept wouldn't work without the action to match, but Evans' fight scenes (designed by Uwais co-star Yayan Ruhian) are sculpted of pure adrenaline—and the ride doesn't stop until The Raid's final minutes (when exhaling is necessary for physical safety). Rama slaps, punches, kicks, twists and wrestles his opponents, occasionally picking up a broken shard of door or a discarded pistol (loaded or unloaded, doesn't matter) to aid in his mano a mano battle. The movie doesn't skimp on blood, Evans embracing the numerous moments where bad guys are thrown viciously down the shabby building's unkept corridors into sharp objects. Audience gasps and exclamations are The Raid's fuel, and like Rama's own ascension, the film continues to top itself fight after fight after fight after fight.

With blood continually pumping through its veins, The Raid becomes a tad tiresome by the hour and a half mark (the film runs 101 minutes), but the artistry behind the film, Evans' evocative camera work (that's almost comparable to Wim Wenders' experimental dance film Pina), the electronic score from composer Joe Trapenese (Tron Legacy) and Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and Uwais physically-inspiring star turn, help the movie redefine action. There's a reason Sony snatched the movie up so quickly at the Toronto Film Festival—The Raid: Redemption may be a foreign film, an under-the-radar indie picture by Hollywood comparisons, but it speaks a singular language everyone can understand: butt-kicking.

What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes! rated this film 4 stars.