Two weeks ago, Jason Shawhan and Jim Ridley attended a morning press screening of the Indonesian action thriller The Raid: Redemption. They emerged 101 minutes later breathless, belligerent and pondering essential questions of existence and cinema, such as: How do you make a lethal weapon out of a door frame? Hours later, they attempted to form coherent thought:
JIM RIDLEY: Wooh! Aaah! How has it taken three decades for someone to discover the magic six-word action-movie high concept: "It's The Warriors — in a high-rise!"
JASON SHAWHAN: What's refreshing about The Raid is its directness; the simplicity of the backstories, the transitive nature of its violence, and its refreshingly clear use of space and editing. If you've felt alienated by shaky handheld camerawork and disoriented by frenetic cutting that doesn't even give you a real sense of where anything onscreen is in relation to anything else, The Raid is a revelation.
JR: You know what else is a revelation? I didn't know refrigerators could explode.
JS: As the good cop Rama, who leads the strike team into the druglord's fortified apartment building and has to fight his way past every floor, Iko Uwais represents a concept alien to most studio-supported offerings: a devout Muslim hero.
JR: I like the scene where he shoots about 50 people in the face. Sorry, I should be more specific.
JS: It feels like this is the next step in the evolutionary gumbo of global action cinema: Pencak Silat, the Indonesian martial art that works as a graceful flurry of crunching, is a style that can be added to the palettes of those who kick ass for entertainment everywhere. As District 13 did for parkour, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon did for wu xia leapfights, and Gina Carano did for women avenging over a century of reductive objectification with some well-placed face-snappings, that's what The Raid brings to where we are now.
JR: You can also learn things from this movie. The middle hour could be a training film called, "So Your Landlord Broke Out the Machetes — What Now?"
JS: It gets at the central moral dilemma that the Elite Squad films were trying to portray, but it does so in a much less belabored fashion. It boils down to corrupt and cryptofascist authority versus pernicious and exploitative criminals, with quality martial-arts skills the only defense against mutually assured destruction.
JR: I know the remake is coming. Just please tell me John Carpenter is directing it.