'The Raid: Redemption' relies on masterful mayhem

Published April 11, 2012

The Raid: Redemption (R) (101 min.) — About 30 minutes into this Indonesian shoot-and-slash-'em-up someone grabs an ax, and the fun really begins. Not so much in the body count — there are plenty of corpses stacked nonetheless — but the panache of the violence, the ingenuity of execution, in both senses of that word.

People die messy and masterful in The Raid: Redemption, a movie so violently entertaining that it could slide by without a plot but attempts one anyway. See, there's this tenement building owned by a ruthless gangster renting hideaways to deadly criminals. This guy Iko Uwais — think Bruce Lee with a machete — plays a cop leading a SWAT team into a suicide assault upon the building.

What, you want more than that in a plot? Wrong movie.

But if you'd like to see a relentless action flick to inspire a season of Spike TV's 1,000 Ways to Die then here's your ticket. The Raid: Redemption is a jaw-dropping panorama of mayhem, without many breaks offered to reset your jaw. Director Gareth Evans — a Welshman working abroad but solidly in his element — stages bloody, energetic mayhem to make viewers cringe and laugh at once.

Evans constantly finds fresh views of violence, from the slo-mo trajectory of a bullet through a door and into someone's neck, to overhead camera angles adding new spins to martial arts moves. Nobody in the cast is a star in the United States, so basically anyone can die at any time. Lots of people do, at point blank range and closer, with necks snapping, backs breaking and sickening sound effects marking the occasions.

Remember that ultra-violent scene in Old Boy when the dude plowed through a subway platform of bad guys and was the only one left standing? Multiply it by four or five and that's The Raid: Redemption. This movie has nothing in mind except proving bloodlust can be fun, and not necessarily sadistic. Now watch some American produce a remake to ruin the idea.

The Raid: Redemption is shown with English subtitles at several Tampa Bay area locations. B+

Steve Persall, Times movie critic