Raid: Redemption

“The Raid: Redemption,” the effort of Gareth Huw Evans (he wrote, directed, and even edited), showcases the young helmer’s considerable technical and visual skills in making a dynamo adrenaline picture, with non-stop action set-pieces, which defy not only norms of realism but also laws of gravity.

Problem is, it has very little on its mind by way of theme, plot, characters, and so on.

The Raid would have made a wonderful short of 20-30 minutes, but in its current form it stretched its narrow text to the limit.

I have to make a personal confession: I was on the jury of 2011 Torino Film Fest, where “The Raid” played in competition and was dismissed right away as a major contender for awards.

In the ultra-minimal plot, Iko Uwais plays a rookie member of an elite special-forces team, instructed to hang back during a covert mission to extract a brutally ruthless crime lord from a rundown 15-story apartment block.

In a preposterous turn of events, when a spotter blows their cover, a boss named Tama (Ray Sahetaphy) offers sanctuary to the killers, rapists, thieves and other lowlifes in the building in exchange for their heads.  (Yes, you read right).  This forces Rama to stand in for the team’s fallen leader Jaka (Joe Taslim) and use his fighting strength—and every trick available to Evans as a young, bold action director, who wants to impress his viewers (if not critics).

The goal is to wind through each and every floor and room to complete the mission successfully, and then, with some luck, escape with his life intact.

Evans acknowledges that he had been inspired by such classic thrillers as “Die Hard” and “Assault on Precinct 13,” all films that used a single building for unyielding cinematic geography while creating enormous tension.  But unlike those films, in which there were individual characters (heroes and villains) you could relate to, or get involved with, “The Raid” contains one-dimensional, unrelatable characters that are borderline caricatures (some of it is by design).

Named one of 2012’s “Directors To Watch” Gareth Huw Evans reteams on “The Raid: Redemprion” with Iko Uwais, the star and fight choreographer of the cult movie “Merantau,” which catapulted the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat to international stardom.

Playing well with young viewers at the 2011 Toronto Film Fest, “The Raid” is released by Sony Classics in late March.

The new, propulsive score by alternative rocker-composers Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Joseph Trapanese, collaborator with Daft Punk and M83, is a major plus in a picture that offers non-stop visceral pleasures and demand not to be taken seriously on any level.

A quintessential midnight movie, the ultra-violent “The Raid” stands good chance to become a campy cult item among high school and college students.