Serbuan maut (2011)
★★ / ★★★★
In order to capture and shut down a gangster who provided housing for all sorts of criminals, a group of cops had to storm a building and make their way up to the fifteenth floor where Tama (Ray Sahetapy) hid with his most trusted henchmen (Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian). The surreptitious incursion went rather swimmingly until the team reached the sixth floor. Once the alarm was triggered, the tables were turned and a bloody massacre began. The first act of “Serbuan maut,” written and directed by Gareth Evans, worked as suspenseful action-thriller because of the way the camera lingered and paid attention to the exact steps necessary for the cops to get into the building sans casualty. As the men took nervous but careful breaths and lined up along the compound’s walls with their courage, helmets, and guns, it felt like we were watching a real storming of a criminal base. I was so engrossed with what was happening, even a simple act of picking a lock triggered my imagination to think of the worst. For instance, what if the lock, once opened, had some sort of a fatal trap? When silence enveloped the action and the camera was up close on people’s faces, the writer-director capitalized on our suspicion that something was about to go very wrong. Unfortunately, the film’s middle section up until the very end felt lazy although that isn’t to suggest that it was without inspiration. The martial arts performed by the actors and stuntmen forced my eyes to widen in disbelief and fear while my mouth dropped open because of the level of violence shown on screen. There were plenty of moments when I flinched and psychically begged everyone to stop hurting each other. Everything was free game: the slicing of the flesh using small knives and machetes, releasing of bullets from guns placed directly on the back of the head as well as on the face, breaking of spinal cords using bare hands and convenient nearby objects, among others. It managed to keep my interest for some time. However, as it went on, I eventually craved for something more. The last thing I wanted was a story but the script was adamant in pursuing one. Between the action sequences were conversations that were frustratingly vague. Names were mentioned but it was difficult to keep track of who was being referred to and if the character was still alive or long dead. There was mindless talk of corruption and unexpected connections between two sides. I found it difficult to care. What I craved to see was more variation of the physical combat. The problem was each room and hallway looked pretty much the same: gray, dingy, and grimy. And since there weren’t enough significant changes in the environment, fighting styles and strategies remained the same and I noticed myself becoming increasingly bored. Luckily, Rama (Iko Uwais), our main protagonist who had a pregnant wife at home, had a very human quality about him. I suspected that if the script that been stronger, Uwais might have successfully played a hero who we could both root for and understand. I give “The Raid: Redemption” some credit for not mistaking bullets penetrating walls, appliances, and bodies as thrilling. Too bad, though, that its occasional peaks of creativity were hampered by monotonous dialogue.