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The Raid: Redemption

People who hate subtitled movies are the perfect audience for The Raid, an Indonesian action spectacular with subtitles. It is to the aesthetic credit of distributor Sony Classics, an outfit that usually specializes in arthouse fare, that they chose to release this in the US in its original language rather than redubbing it into English: As any fan of martial arts movies knows, it’s is pretty much impossible to dub an Asian film well enough not to be a distraction.

Whether it was an economically smart decision remains to be seen, though The Raid hits theaters on a crest of viral interest. The plot couldn’t be any more generic: A team of cops invades an apartment building owned and occupied by Tama (Ray Sahetapy), a ganglord who rents the rooms out to ne’er-do-wells and miscreants and surrounds himself with a private army. The first third of the film is nonstop mayhem—what Joe Bob Briggs would call “bullet fu”—as the bad guys get the upper hand, slaughtering most of the cops and trapping the rest. After that the story focuses on rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais), as he battles to save his partner and escape from the building. Uwais is a master of a traditional Indonesian martial art form called pencak silat, which I presume means “simultaneously flailing all four limbs as fast as humanly possibly so that anyone near you is bound to be hit by one of them.” In the tradition of this kind of film (think Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone), a less attractive but even more skilled practitioner plays the villain, leading to a kickass finale.

As martial arts films go, it’s not as much fun as the best of Jackie Chan or Tony Jaa. But neither does it rely on martial arts that heavily: Action fans can enjoy it for the pyrotechnics and traditional plot twists (you mean they’re brothers?) as well as the gyroscopic fight choreography. An American remake is in the works, and it’s almost certain to be less enjoyable.

Watch the trailer for The Raid: Redemption

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