Friday 18 May 2012

Review: The Raid (Redemption)

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Raid poster

The Raid or The Raid: Redemption if you're in the US.
101 mins / Dir. Gareth Evans

I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Mr Evans. I don't really have a frame of reference with The Raid, as I don't watch a lot of martial arts movies. That's not to say I don't enjoy them, but we don't cross paths very often. So y'know… bear with me.

The Plot: A Jakartan SWAT team launches a dawn-raid to capture/incapacitate a drug-baron and gangster. What stands between them? 15 floors of run-down apartment block, populated by Riyadi and his minions, and the poor and desperate civilians who fear and obey him. What could possibly go wrong?

The Good: It's a testament to an excellent screenplay that you could watch The Raid without the subtitles and still grasp exactly what's going on. To a certain degree, that's pretty much what happened (see 'The Ugly'), but it underlines the point. The opening scene sees the central character, Rama, readying himself for the raid his team is about to embark on. He kisses his pregnant wife goodbye, and we get some mission-brief exposition on the way to the tower-block… then the action begins.

The story is simple but solid, and more credit to the writers for not overcomplicating things, as is par for the course with many American productions on this level. There's a certain degree of character 'twisting', but only what you're expecting anyway. It's told more or less from Rama's viewpoint, with the (albeit minor) unfolding events revealed as he learns them. A consequence of this technique is that a lot of the supporting cast are disposed of with a minimum of fuss (although with a lot of firepower), and it reinforces Rama's escalating isolation as his team is whittled down. But hey, let's not get too deep…

I would dearly, dearly like to know how many gunshots are in this film. It's certainly in four figures, and quite possibly in five. No, seriously. The first half of this movie sees a shell-count (and body-count) unlike anything I've witnessed in years. The second half focuses more on hand-to-hand martial arts, with more shouting and grunting than actual dialogue. But all in all, it adds up to a spectacular ride, with genuine tension throughout.

Like I said back there, I don't have a massive comparatory database for this genre, but I enjoyed it immensely, and it seems to be getting the nods which suggest it's a leader in its field.

The Bad: If you don't like extended bouts of gunfire and martial arts displays, you're not going to get a lot out of The Raid. There is an over-arcing plot, and the acting and scripting is incredibly solid, but this is an action film. An interestingly shot, beautifully choreographed action film.

The Ugly: Now, this is no fault of the film-makers, but when are Cineworld going to either a) stop using analogue projection, or b) employ someone who knows how to operate an analogue projection system? The Raid was shown in Screen 2 of my local, and seeing that on the ticket always makes my heart sink a little. Screen 2 is the only one of the available five that always projects in analogue. Y'know, with actual reels of film, as opposed to a digital projector. So the shaky slightly out-of-focus movie you're going to see also, statistically, has a greater chance of other inherent problems, too. Today's first problem was the image being shifted to the top half of the screen in the pre-film Orange promo. Not 'squashed', just a black lower half of the screen, and the bottom half of the picture on the remaining upper section of the screen.

As there were only five people in attendance (hey, that's why I like a Friday afternoon showing, okay?), I popped to the foyer to ask the ticket-checker to have a word with the projectionist. The ticket checker was in the foyer, chatting to the projectionist. He looked embarrassed and went to fix it. The opening title-card of the film quickly adjusted to it's proper position, and the five of us watched the action unfold. Until about twenty minutes in, when we noticed that when the subtitles appeared on two lines, the second one was mostly cut off by the bottom of the screen. The film was either being projected at a size too large for the screen, or was being shown in the wrong aspect-ratio. A woman a couple of rows in front of me left to 'have a word'.

About a minute later, we all enjoyed the rest of the film with full subtitles. Then, after the closing shot of the film, the title-card appears, with THE RAID in massive letters ('Aardvark Bold' or similar). Massive letters not centered in the screen. The projectionist hadn't adjusted the projection size and/or moved the curtains, he'd just shifted the whole thing upwards a notch, cutting off the top of the picture. Y'know, like Matt Flannery, the Director of Photography intended?

Now I'm not going to get all Kermode and dismiss digital projection as skill-less computer operation, but if you don't have a competent operator for your analogue system, don't fucking use it. It's not like I want to see analogue outlawed, but it is redundant technology. Charming? Historically important? 'Earthy'? Yes, all of those, but outdated.

Like playing vinyl on a cheap record-deck, analogue projection is wasted if it's not given the dedication, skill and attention it deserves.

I stress again, that the above is NO reflection on the film, I just needed space to rant.

Worth £8+? Fuck, yes. See this immediately.


Oh, it's GOOD.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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