Monday, April 30, 2012
Well, they've finally done it. When Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch came out last year, I knew it was only a matter of time. The dialogue and plot in that movie were utter bullshit, mere filler, a way of killing time between the action and fantasy scenes. The Raid: Redemption throws the baby out with the bathwater, simply removing the dialogue scenes altogether. It's instant gratification on repeat, the action equivalent of hardcore pornography.
The Raid has been remarkably – some might say alarmingly – well received by critics and action fans alike. I can appreciate the fact that it's well executed. It has some novelty value in that it showcases the indigenous martial arts of Indonesia. It could have made for a great 15-minute film, but at 110 minutes it's just plain numbing. More breathtaking than the film itself are some of the reactions to it. Clearly intent on hyping up the fanbase, Nordling at Ain't It Cool News had the balls to call it the greatest action movie since Die Hard and John Woo's masterpiece, Hard Boiled. "Call it hyperbole," Nordling dares the reader. Not only that, I'll call it fucking ludicrous. I'm more in the Roger Ebert camp on this one. On his blog, the esteemed critic wished The Raid had provided "some humor, humanity, romance, suspense, beauty, strategy, poetry. Not all of those qualities, but at least several them."
The 15-minute premise: A SWAT team infiltrates an apartment complex, and must fight its way to the top floor to apprehend a ruthless druglord. This scenario will be familiar to action fans. It's usually contained within a single sequence, like the takedown of the Carter building in New Jack City. There have been countless sequences like this in vastly superior films, such as Luc Besson's The Professional. Is Nordling saying The Raid is better than the fucking Professional? It's not even up to the standards of the lesser action pictures that Besson writes, produces and distributes through EuropaCorp. In those movies, Besson will take a far-out concept and build the action from there, as he does in the current Lockout (Guy Pearce vs. the inmates of a maximum security prison – in outer space!). The Raid isn't a high-concept picture; it's a no-concept picture. It takes my plot description of Lockout and removes everything but the !
The Raid also brings to mind Walter Hill's brutally efficient Trespass, which takes place almost entirely within the confines of an abandoned building in East St. Louis. Though it eventually devolves into fairly routine bloodletting, Trespass had the benefit of a crackling script by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. With its eerie incorporation of video footage, including a murder captured on tape, the movie stirred up quite a bit of controversy, drawing comparisons to the Rodney King beating and the ensuing L.A. Riots. Similarly, Besson's District B13 was frequently cited in late 2005, when the international media covered the riots in the poorer suburbs of Paris. When a genre film is well made, it can stumble onto relevancy. I'm not sure what relevant statement The Raid has made, other than to say we're in for a slew of brainless, heartless, hopeless action pictures.