LITTLE ROCK — Working with a budget barely north of $1 million and with a cast whose performers include a former truck driver and a judo champion, Welsh writer-director Gareth Evans crams more thrills into a Jakarta high-rise than more profligate filmmakers can do with a whole city or even a nation.
The Raid: Redemption concerns an armed bust of Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who may be the Indonesian capital city’s most feared gangster. If the drug trade hadn’t already made him rich and influential, his sadism frightens people on both sides of the law. His lucky victims get shot in the head. When he runs out of bullets for his pistol, the target’s going to die anyway, just not as quickly.
A squad of 20 well-armed cops, however, may be able to bring him to justice. Because Tama has greased a lot of palms, the raid is secret so that moles inside Jakarta’s Finest can’t alert Tama to the danger.
The team consists of an incorruptible, experienced Sgt. Jaka (moonlighting martial artist Joe Taslim) and a greenhorn, idealistic cop named Rama (Iko Uwais, the previously mentioned truck driver and star of Evans’ previous movie, Merantau).
Joining them is the abrasive and ethically challenged Lt. Wahyu (Pierre Gruno).
The older cop argues with Jaka about how the raid should be run until he and the others discover the dilapidated building is more than a simple drug den. The crooks greatly outnumber the cops, and even the civilians are armed to the teeth.
All of this is a setup for some of the most ably staged gun play and martial arts action in recent memory. If reading subtitles as characters speak Indonesian is frustrating for you, don’t worry.
Unlike a lot of American filmmakers, Evans can make action scenes that are a marvel to follow, and his camera reveals more than reams of droning subtitled dialogue. Evans’ plot may be straightforward, but he also has a knack for coming up with credible plot twists that actually surprise.
The Raid: Redemption is the movie Evans and Uwais had to settle for because the producers couldn’t raise the grand sum the two needed for a more ambitious film. I, for one, am dying to see that movie.
The Raid: Redemption 86
Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Joe Taslim, Ray Sahetapy, Doni Alamsyah, Pierre Gruno
R, for strong, brutal, bloody violence throughout, and language
100 minutes In Indonesian with English subtitles