We gave it a B-
Imagine that you’re a child of thrill-kill videogames and other forms of pop culture gruesomeness, and you sit down to watch a classic kung fu movie — like, say, Enter the Dragon (1973). You behold Bruce Lee, with his switchblade limbs and famously balletic speed, mowing down an army of goons, one after the next, and your reaction is ”Yawn! Not violent enough!” If that’s the case, The Raid: Redemption is the movie for you. The fight scenes in this Indonesia-set pressure cooker of an underworld thriller are done in the vintage hand-to-hand style of highly choreographed martial arts. Except that the combatants, instead of being bare-handed, tend to be holding daggers, and so people are constantly getting slashed (the sound effects are sickeningly fleshy). And even when they’re not, you feel as if they’re about to be. This is mixed martial arts, all right — it’s fists of fury mixed with torture porn.
The movie sets up a cul-de-sac situation, with the members of a special-forces police unit bursting into a squalid tenement that houses a crime lord, then finding themselves trapped there. The director, Welsh-born Gareth Huw Evans, keeps thinking up new ways for sensation seekers to get their gore on (dismemberings, bullets shot through eye sockets). He makes The Expendables look like 12 Angry Men. Yet I do wish that Evans were a better storyteller. When he isn’t turning mad-dog violence into visual rock & roll, The Raid shreds narrative coherence to ribbons. B-