It was September 2011 and it was my first time at the Toronto International Film Festival. I decided to take a chance on an Indonesian martial arts film that was then just called The Raid. It wasn’t like any of the other premiers that I had been to. It started at midnight with an energy that felt like we were waiting for a concert – not a movie- to start. When the film’s stars took the stage to introduce it, many audience members were more eager to see them fight than speak, with some calling for them to “kick him in the head”.
The plot of The Raid: Redemption, as it’s known now, is as simple as it gets. A Jakarta Swat team raids a high rise crack house where an untouchable drug dealer is hiding out. Things- who would have guessed- go horribly wrong and the building’s residents kill all but a few cops, including a rookie named Rama, who will need to fight their way out with machete, axes, feet, fists, and elbows. (Everyone seems to run out of bullets quickly in this movie).
It’s not much but it’s all the story we need. The movie spends almost all its time dedicated to some of the best fight choreography I’ve seen in a long time. More importantly, director Gareth Evans knows how to shoot it. I’ve seen way too many action movies from disorganized directors who don’t known where to put the camera or editors who cut away too quickly to the point where it’s hard to tell who’s roundhousing who. Not here. Evans knows exactly what’s going on in every fight and wants us to too. It pays off. The bloodthirsty crowd at the world premiere cheered for every broken bone, every face smashed into a wall, and every throat that’s slit.
Many will be turned off by the violence. But for those with a bad case of bloodlust, first- if you get the chance to catch a Midnight Madness screening at Tiff, take it. Second, see this movie. The adrenaline will stay with you all day.