The first time I heard about the movie Raid: Redemption, all I could think was, “great, another stupid action movie.” The truth is, that I had grown tired of action movies. Sure, I’ll go to all the comicbook movies, but that’s because they’re comicbook movies. I’m going to see movies about characters I’ve liked and followed for years. I’m going because I want to be entertained by the universe that the comicbook movies inhabit. The action had become secondary. The last non-comic action movie I remember seeing before the two Raid movies was one of the Fast and Furious movies and, to be honest, I had grown weary of them. They have their moments for when I just need some mild entertainment, but I’m not captured by those movies, and I’m not exhilarated by them. I had grown apathetic to the whole genre, waiting for the movies to end more so than actually caring about what was happening.
Then a couple years ago, things started to change. A friend told me I had to check out a movie called The Raid Redemption. I said fine. I didn’t go in expecting much, but then the assault began, and things changed. The choreography of the fight scenes, the way the huge battles were shot, the way they were able to develop characters in a short amount of time, without the need of long expositions, and the story itself, gave me a sense of joy I had not felt in a long time while watching an action movie.
Suffice it to say, When the Raid 2: Berendal hit theaters, I could not wait to see it, hoping it could match the excitement of the first film. What I went through in that movie theater while watching Raid 2, was a level of anxiety and exhilaration I had never felt before during an action film. The Raid 2 was, to my disbelief, a whole new level above even the first film.
The film begins five minutes after the first film ended. Our protagonist, Rama, is recruited to go undercover and infiltrate one of the largest gangs in the city. To do this, he had to get himself arrested, and befriend the boss’ son, who was doing time in prison. Once out of prison, Rama joins the gang, an begins to work to uncover their various crimes, and their involvement with police corruption, as a whole shit storm of trouble comes flying his way. I don’t want to talk too much about the iconic action scenes in the movie as I don’t want to ruin them for anyone who has not seen them yet. Suffice it to say, as I was sitting in that theater, I experienced the literal sensation of being on the edge of my seat, because that’s exactly where I was. The moment I saw the muddy prison yard fight, I was sold. I knew I could never look at action films the same way, because the two Raid films had given me new expectations. I saw Captain America 2, the week after I saw the Raid 2, and while I enjoyed the film as a spy thriller, I spent much of the time during the fight scenes thinking how unsatisfying they were compared to what I had seen the previous week.
The Raid 2 was not just a great action film, though. In some ways, I found it to be an homage to some great films of the past, whether the references were intentional or not. The most apparent that come to mind are the montage murder scene that came off as eerily similar to the baptism by fire scene in The Godfather; the train car fight scene that seemed to be a throwback to the original Oldboy and/or Kill Bill Vol. 1; and a more general homage to Infernal Affairs, watching Rama struggle to remain undercover just as Chen Wing Yan did.
Suffice it to say, the Raid films have rekindled my love of the action film genre, and I can only hope that their success will push the genre into a new, more thrilling direction. I don’t know if my wish will come true, but for the first time in a long time, I eagerly await what will come.