15 October 2012

Raiders With A Martial Art


If watching violent films and playing violent games could turn us into violent people then there's no doubt I'd have killed someone by now. I already have a predisposition towards misanthropy and so it really wouldn't take that much to push me over the edge. A few years back I endured a particularly brutal breakup with someone in which they wouldn't take the hint and piss the fuck off. After three hours of trying to convince her to get out of my house I found myself defeated and exhausted. I sat on the floor with my brain all argued out and tried in silence to think of something I could say that would end this siege of emotional retardation.

Although she did eventually leave it wasn't before I'd been turned into a lobotomised wreck. Dribbling, disorientated and overwhelmed I was like a drunk Paris Hilton in a cum factory. I therefore did the only thing that I could to regain my sanity and so switched on the Xbox. Say what you like about Call of Duty: Black Ops but it's combat training was a godsend. I set the bots to easy, found the smallest possible level and then spent the next two hours repeatedly shooting the poor little bastards pointblank in the face with a shotgun. It'd been a difficult night for me so I'm  glad nobody was around to witness my maniacal laughter or raging boner.

My point is that rather than turning me into a genuine psycho this virtual slaughter actually mellowed me out and helped to relieve a fuck load of stress. Despite the bad press they get, violent films work just the same for me by acting as an effective celluloid stress-ball. If I accidentally catch just a glimpse of Piers Morgan's mutated ball-sack of a face then I have to watch Natural Born Killers for six solid hours to try and calm down... It's either that or I have to kill a budgie.

The most violent film I've seen both recently and for the first time is the Indonesian action film The Raid. I'd heard good things about it beforehand, but then I'd also heard good things about anal sex and I can't say I enjoyed that particularly. The difference I suppose was that I watched The Raid of my own free will whereas it wasn't until mid-fuck I realised that I'd been duped into performing buggery. Call me old fashioned but my general outlook is that a vagina is usually snug enough unless, of course, your cock is quite small, or your girlfriend’s a slut.

The Raid starts quietly with the main character Rama preparing for his next assignment. He's a member of an Elite SWAT team, an excellent fighter and his wife is currently expecting their first child. I guess Rama figures that as soon as his partner gives birth, his life is basically over anyway and so why not go for a job in which you're likely to die in a hail of bullets? The opening scene is the closest we get to any real backstory and even that features Rama slapping a punching bag as though he's just caught AIDs off the village tart.

If there's one thing that can be said about The Raid, it’s that it's not complicated. In fact, the plot is probably about as simple and single-minded as Ashton Kutcher in a coma dreaming about eggcups. I mean that as a complement too by the way, as so many action films are ruined by a convoluted story. For example, The Merovingian adds nothing to The Matrix Reloaded except running time and annoying, pseudo-philosophical drivel. If there's any one nation that I refuse to be lectured by about 'Cause and Effect' then it's the fucking French (worse still by someone pretending to be French). The Raid on the other hand is so lean that if it were an actor, it could easily play a holocaust victim or perhaps a smack addict.

Rama gets called up for his assignment and quickly finds himself in the back of a van with the rest of his team. Their mission is to invade a scummy block of flats and then arrest the gang leader who lives there. Unfortunately for them, the majority of people who inhabit it are also criminals using the security of the building to lie low. I hate to draw comparisons to this tower and the unemployed yobs who live there, to a block of flats in the poorer parts of Liverpool, so I won't. Not because I don't believe it but because Scousers can be fucking touchy when they want to be.

Despite this being a crack team of well-trained law enforcers, they manage to fuck things up within seconds of entering the building. They're spotted by a young child who manages to sound the alarm and warn everyone inside that they're on the prowl. I hate to criticise the Indonesian Police but what the fuck was their delay. They had a clear two seconds to shoot that lookout kid in the fucking head and yet they hesitated. I know he hadn't done anything to warrant his death when they had the opportunity, but since when would that stop our police? Until I live in a fascist society were innocent people can be shot to death by the law and with no real consequences, then I just won't be able to feel safe.

The building is instantly put into lockdown with the residents ordered to kill Rama and his colleagues in exchange for some free rent. What follows is ninety minutes of hardcore action and survival horror that makes your average snuff movie look like the latest Pixar film. To describe the violence in The Raid as extreme would be an understatement. It features people getting shot in the face, stabbed in the throat and the most horrific gaping axe wound since Pamela Anderson hit that red record button, spread her legs and showed us what she had for breakfast.

If the plot of this film sounds in any way familiar then I'd assume that's because you're one of the twelve people to have seen the recent and excellent Dredd. Comparisons between the two films have been widely made with their similarity in fact being used as criticism against Dredd. However having now seen both films, I really don't see what the problem is. Sure they share the same set up but that's about it. It's kind of like the start of Casino Royale when Bond is chasing the black guy who’s bouncing around a construction site like an evil Tigger with a bomb. They come to a dead end in which the black guy leaps athletically through a small window only for Bond to plough straight through it like a proper defiant bastard. With this analogy, The Raid is Tigger the bomber and Dredd is Bond. They both face the same hurdles but where one solves it with a dignified display of lethal ballet, the other just smashes things up like an angry cunt with a wasp up his arse.

I don't want to have to choose between Dredd and The Raid because I loved them both. However after watching the latter I kind of realised I never need to see another action film ever again. Everything about The Raid is pretty much perfect with the stunts being exciting, imaginative and relentlessly bone-crunching. Most films break up their action with scenes of exposition or ‘backstory’ but The Raid can't be fucked with something as pathetic as dialogue. It therefore breaks up its action with different forms of violence. They start off shooting at each other, then move onto knife fights and then conclude with some phenomenal kung-fu shiz. I'm not exaggerating when I say the martial arts here really does makes the incredible fighting in The Matrix look like two thalidomide's trying to happy-slap each other in a desperate attempt to somehow climax.

I'm in no way a sporty person but the level of dedication on display with The Raid’s stunts is genuinely shocking. At times the fighting gets so extreme you can't help but wonder if anybody genuinely got hurt. I'm not saying that action films are improved by the possibility of real danger but it would certainly make some movies more entertaining. In fact if someone actually kicked Chris Tucker in the throat then Rush Hour would be at risk of becoming almost watchable.

Bizarrely, and despite The Raid being an Indonesian kung-fu film, it is in fact written and directed by some Welsh bloke called Gareth Evans. Before seeing this movie, I'd always thought of the Welsh as an English secret and considered them our sort-of-simple cousins. They were basically only known for living in the hills and riding sheep in a way that can only be safe with the use of a condom. Having now seen The Raid, my opinion hasn't changed but Gareth Evans is clearly a talented man. For the full running time, his camera never stops moving, whizzing about like an bonus character on crack. The ‘kineticism’ really is up their with Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright and really does go to show that it's not the budget that dictates excitement, but the level of talent in control. If Michael Bay was even half as talented as Evans then he'd realise how shite Transformers: Dark of the Moon was and cry himself to death in a puddle of piss and shame. If we, as a species, realised how much more money was involved with that ball-poppingly dull threequel was, we'd hopefully do the same.

If I have one criticism of The Raid, it would be regarding a minor plot development in which two characters turn out to be brothers. Despite this adding a little extra tension and character development it also comes across as a little bit of a coincidence. Although in its defence, that is only a minor point and is in no way as contrived as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I'd always wondered who built C3-PO and so thank God it turned out to be a young Darth Vader. Without that random and unnecessary development, the saga wouldn't have held together as well and Episode one would probably be considered to be proper shite.

In the end, The Raid probably won't be everybody’s cup of tea, but that's only because some people are pussies. Yes, it's violent, but it's really not as offensive as something like the morally bankrupt Sex and the City 2. After watching The Raid all I wanted to do was tell people how brilliant it was. After Sex and the Shitty I just wanted to self-harm for a few hours until the memories went away. I guess what I'm saying is that violent films really don't make the people watching them violent. After enduring the self-indulgent escapades of Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha and Seabiscuit, they might even help to calm us down. Sure laughing at the sight of seeing someone knifed in the throat might seem anti-social but fuck it- I can assure you it was through the sheer giddy of The Raids brilliance and not because I think being stabbed is a source of humour. Not unless Piers Morgan's after any tips for a stand up routine, anyway.

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