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Film

‘The Raid' turns 10: How Gareth Evans redefined modern action

A sound like a whip slapping against the back of someone’s skull is what The Raid delivers: only amplified, and delivered with comedic, character-forming aplomb. It is the sound of the James Bond series learning from its po-faced mistakes, starring a man who could very well replace Daniel Craig in the tuxedo in the near future. Iko Uwais stars as Rama, the most notable, and most likeable, of a team of misfits trying to save the people he loves from a fate worst than death.

The film was marketed as an Indonesian movie, but the director was British – or Welsh, if you will – and in a simple, physical sense, the feature wraps its claws around the neck of the audience, only agreeing to let go when the characters permitted them to. From the first dizzying, vertical shot comes a series of blinding set pieces, each one more frenzied and thrilling than the one that came immediately before it. The language barrier scarcely matters when the film races along at such a turbo-charged pace, and like Mad Max: Fury Road after it, the film prides itself on the visuals that accompany the film over the snappily written dialogue that slowed British action adventures down in the past.

No matter whether or not the audience enjoyed the adventure, there’s no denying the twists, turns and avenues the feature takes on its journey to self-realisation. The action grows more frantic the more the director wills it too, and by the time audiences reach the point of continuation, there is no pity, there is no introspection, there’s only carnage, every blow delivered is one from the bottom of the character’s soul and body.

For Evans, the film proved to be a passion project, earmarking a new style of work-out and powerful punches. “It has this ability to adapt and shift from higher to lower attacks in an instant,” Evans recalled. “It’s very dexterous. The way they move, the twists of the body, there is a kind of rhythm to it.” He acclimatised nicely to the genre of Asian action adventures, keenly aware that the genre had more elements to it than the rapier-sharp work of the action films his country was churning out at the time.

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Indeed, every silhouette moves with tight, music-video like precision, demonstrating a keenness for the editing styles Godley & Creme had created in the 1980s. Where once it was an art form that been looked down on by members of the more prestigious sectors of the film industry, here the techniques that were deemed inferior, gimmicky and pedestrian are shown to their full potential, demonstrating that pop and cinema were more alike than the artists were happy to admit. The Raid invokes the camera styles and angles of a David Fincher project, another director whose foundations were built on promotional pop video.

But that’s not to say The Raid is a dumb movie. Indeed, the central characters spend much of the time querying their place in life, hoping to absent themselves from the horrors unfolding all around them. The finished product is strange, dark, jagged and lit with a sparkily produced frisson that only grows stronger with every passing light of the match.

It’s easy to see the influence the film had on Edgar Wright‘s The World’s End, cascading in a lushly produced convoy of fadeouts and cutaways. Wright went one further on Baby Driver, released in 2017, which was set to the constant change of a shuffle demonstrating its change, track after impressive track. Bolstered by the presence of a shifting camera, Baby Driver plunges along, never holding back for a pause, but to soak in the inevitable applause.

Whether or not Wright has conceded the influence is irrelevant since The Raid wholeheartedly changed the lexicon of the landscape, seeping into the culture that came after it. The paranoia, passion, persuasion and gallows wit: It was all done with great attention to detail, questioning Martin Scorsese’s decision to dismiss comic book movies as a lesser form of entertainment to the pillars of truth his work supposedly represented. Yet there is truth to The Raid, albeit presented with great style and presentation, laced with gallows wit and a desire to relate with the internal struggles of the central characters in question. The film is, by any reasonable definition of the word, a classic, and continues to entertain ten years after its release.

For Evans, the work had a musical element to it, likening the punches and scuffles to the energy and infectiousness of a drummer looking to drive their band forwards: “On an analytical level, what’s so special about the Asian approach to action is that there is a time signature to the fighting. Punch, punch, kick, block, block, block, punch, punch, block. It’s like percussion. It’s got rhythm.”

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