Here's everything you need to know about the plot of Indonesia's newest action import, The Raid: Redemption: A small battalion of elite police officers raid a crowded tenement building controlled by an evil mob boss. Everyone in the building attacks the police officers. Despite the title of the film, there is no redemption. The end.
It's a straightforward action movie, with an extra helping of gore. The good guys say things like "Now let's clean up this fucking city," and the bad guys say things like "You don't shoot cops, you buy them." In the beginning, as the cops make their way up the staircase, there are a number of gun battles. As they climb ever higher, toward the boss, they run out of bullets, and the movie turns into a martial arts extravaganza.
The Raid opens with a shot of a ticking clock, and that propulsive energy is vital to the function of the film. Even the subtitles are lacking all but the most necessary commas, which is probably just an error of translation but still gives the impression of a motormouthed nervous energy. The movie feels like a crank- addled nerd telling you a barely comprehensible story: "and then he picks up the machete and then he cuts the one guy while he punches the man behind him with the other hand and then he jumps up to dodge another guy and then he..." The run-on sentence doesn't wind up making sense, but it sure does keep your attention.
The embodiment of this densely packed twitchiness is a tiny little gristly scrap of a man named Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) who is as relentless and terrifying as any martial arts villain you've ever seen. He succeeds because he's a small-time thug with such limited goals that his complete devotion to the battle is surprising. He just wants to win a lifetime's worth of free rent, and if he slakes his thirsty Napoleon complex with the blood of full-sized opponents as he earns that rent, so much the better. He's the biggest little overachiever in all of Indonesia, and you want to root for him, even as he tortures cops and fights dirty and generally acts like a villain. This isn't the noble martial arts of Bruce Lee, and it's certainly not the cartoonish kineticism of Jackie Chan. This is something like what you'd get if you crossed Hostel with a kung fu movie, and it's impossible to look away.