The Raid: Redemption Blu-ray Review

If the universe bestowed the great gift of syncing up your childhood with that of the mid to late 1980s, then you might be familiar with one of the honorable traditions of waking up well before the Mr. Coffee machine during the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons.  Usually if you prepped your monster bowl of cereal and hit the couch anytime before 6am, you would be treated to the latter half of a badly dubbed martial arts film in which every punch and kick made the same glorious block-clapping sound effect.  Sure they were awful, but what did you know about quality filmmaking during your term in the single digit age bracket?  All you cared about was the awesome karate, and yes it was indeed awesome or “mint” as we referred to it out on Long Island.  And although since then, movie goers have witnessed martial arts films that are a stratosphere beyond those cheesy old kung fu flicks, there’s still something that will make you pause for at least a few minutes when you happen to catch one on cable television.  That something is the authentic quality of the martial arts, which still holds up because it was being executed by masters of the craft, not just one legitimately trained performer and a bunch of stuntmen trying to keep up.  If only someone who was a consummate fanatic of those films would go out and try to make an updated version for its “big kid” audience, complete with intricate camera work, current music, realistic effects, and of course stupidly difficult and violent martial arts.

Thank you Gareth Evans.

The Raid Redemption Blu-ray Review

THE RAID: REDEMPTION is nothing more than an old kung fu movie dressed in modern day lights, HD cameras and a Mike Shinoda score.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  The story, and I’m using that word very loosely, is about Rama (Iko Uwais), a rookie on a special forces team put together to take down a mob boss who protects himself in a high rise apartment building armed to the teeth with gangsters, killers and thugs.  All of whom are extremely proficient in martial arts of course.  But that’s ok, because our heroes are too.

The Raid Redemption Blu-ray Review

The primary type of martial arts used in this film is actually something many fans of the genre may have yet to experience.  It’s called silat, a style developed in Indonesia, which is where the film was shot and takes place.  The style is extremely fluid and fast paced, like watching the most violent ballet ever choreographed.  And the three focal cast members, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim and Yayan Ruhian, are nothing short of absolute gods of their artistry.

The Raid Redemption Blu-ray Review

Although the martial arts alone is extremely entertaining, it’s not enough to satisfy someone looking for an actual plot or even decent dialogue.  This film was not made for people like that, people who are, you know, normal.  This film was made for a very specific niche audience, even those who love karate and action may be turned off by the excessive, yet creative, violence and an afterthought for a script.

However, what was absolutely not an afterthought was the shockingly exceptional cinematography and directing in THE RAID: REDEMPTION.  Director and writer Gareth Evans (MERANTAU) delivers outstanding camera angles using a quasi documentary style of shooting along with perfect lighting for what seems to be a building with a street address somewhere in the tenth level of hell.  The fight scenes are shot so you can actually see all the moves the characters are delivering, instead of the modern and highly irritating extreme close ups that are utilized to hide the shortcomings of the choreography, the actor or both.  Evans was clearly a glutinous consumer of old kung fu films growing up and he’s managed to take something old and create it into something new without losing the charm that lured him and countless others to these types of films for decades.

The Raid Redemption Blu-ray Review

If martial arts films are truly your passion, then THE RAID: REDEMTION is a must have for your personal collection based solely on the intricate quality of the silat, kung fu, and karate disciplines used in the film to create a seamless yet chaotic dance of mind, body and spirit.  Or if you just need something cool to throw on in the background at a poker game or fantasy football draft, it works for that too.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video:  1.77:1 Widescreen, 1080p/AVC MPEG-4: The cinematography in this film is brilliant and the clean and dramatic video on this disc really shows it off nicely.   The bluish and gray hues dominate the color palette, which add an even more depressing layer to the last place on Earth you’d want to have to get in touch with the superintendent to fix a leaky faucet.

Audio:  AC-3, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled: This is one of the most interesting discs to play with the audio track.  I would highly suggest watching it first with its natural audio track and subtitles, just so you don’t make a mockery out of it right away.  Then after you’ve consumed the film in its natural presentation, you can play it back with a dubbed English track that’s just as bad, if not worse, than the kung fu and Godzilla movies of old.

Another bonus is the score selection.  When Sony purchased the distribution rights for this film in the US, they decided to hire someone to re-score the film using a more mainstream sound.  Their selection was Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, who delivers exactly the sound you’d expect if you’re at all familiar with his band’s body of work.  And it fits the film perfectly.  However the original score by Ari Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal is nothing to be swept under the rug in favor of a rock star.  It’s very different from the Shinoda score but it too fits the film perfectly and even creates more of a horror film vibe that compliments some of the ultra violent scenes.

Gareth Evans on the set of The Raid: Redemption

Commentary with writer/director Gareth Evans:  This is a very solid commentary track by the director.   He may be solo on this track, but he is never at a loss for words.  This was a passion project of his and he doesn’t mind sharing every single, and mostly interesting, detail of what he and the cast and crew experienced while making this film.

Behind the Scenes Video Blogs (40 min):  5 featurettes that detail the making of the film from the hard-core boot camp the actors participated in to prepare for the incredibly harsh physical demands of the film to the editing room where all the shots are pieced together and special effects are added.  It’s a little time consuming but not at all boring; this film was low budget but had to have the look of a Hollywood blockbuster.  The processes and techniques used to achieve the final product were very original and had to be thought of during the shooting process.

An Evening with Gareth Evans, Mike Shinoda, and Joe Trapanese (40 min):  A sit-down Q&A with the trio, mostly they go over stuff that’s in the video blog and the audio is pretty poor.

Behind the Music with Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese (11 min):  A look at how Shinoda came to be hired to write a new score for the American release of the film and his approach toward creating it.  Unless you’re a big fan of Linkin Park or just Shinoda, this is not very interesting as it’s mostly Shinoda in front of his sound mixers.

Anatomy of a Scene with Gareth Evans (2 min):  Evans elaborates on a particular scene in which they needed to construct a 2 floor set with a hole in the second floor and make the camera travel down the hole with the actor.  This scene is probably the most impressive on a technical level and seeing how the crew set it up and executed it is very interesting.

In Conversation with Gareth Evans and Mike Shinoda (11 min):  Evans and Shinoda take turns interviewing each other about their experiences on set and in the studio.  This is more redundant material that was already covered in the video blogs and the Behind the Music feature.

Inside the Score (1 min):  A sort of music video showcasing Shinoda as he creates the score for the film.

Claycat’s The Raid (3 min):  A clay animation parody of the film using cats as the characters.  Not sure why this is on the disc as it’s not funny or entertaining in the least.

The Raid TV show ad (circa 1994) (44 sec):  A very brief spoof of a Japanese Animated version of the film.

Theatrical Trailer (2 min)

OVERALL 3.5
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