You’d have to have been hiding under a rock of late to miss the PR marketing for Gareth Evans’ action spectacular THE RAID (Serbuan maut) gathering momentum. A poster campaign with screaming critic taglines…"jaw dropping"…"high octane excitement"…"best action move in decades"… my favourite critic ‘please give me a poster tag line "raises the bar, 30 storeys high"(even my despised "game changer" phrase has been used) and a tap drip campaign of mouth-watering action clip teasers. So after all the growing anticipation, is it actually any good?

First things first, THE RAID is an action movie – in fact, a big dumb ass incredibly violent action movie. What little plot there is therein is the films set piece; a SWAT team are going in to a tower block inhabited by the worst criminal scum of Indonesia. Their mission to take out the landlord/criminal kingpin. And that’s your story. As you would expect, the film basically entails 90 minutes of wall to wall shooting, stabbing, gouging, martial arts and explosions as the ever dwindling SWAT team make their way up the floors.

For me, on paper this sounds like a martial arts/exploitation movie fans wet dream. I went in to this with visions of a modern uber violent spin on Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, salivating at the thought of bloody kung fu action from lead Iko Uwais as he makes his way up each floor facing off against growingly more insane and violent opponents with different nuances and fight styles. Sadly, this is not what transpires. Sure, we get bucket loads of blood and violence but after 20 minutes or so it just felt like "here we go, more of the same".

Initially I thought perhaps I’ve simply become jaded after 30 odd years of watching horror and kung fu movies, had I become desensitised to screen violence and the magic was gone from watching mindless exploitation flicks? No. The simple fact was that I was bored. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate THE RAID, to the contrary, I was willing the movie all the way through to ‘thrill me’ but as each overly choreographed fight scene unfolded and yet another brain was blown across the wall I was sadly left cold.

I expect I’ll give THE RAID another viewing on home video where I reckon perhaps it will fare better for me (sad but true). You see, this is indeed a stupidly violent action spectacular but one that will rightly go down a storm with your brain in the right mode (i.e. late on a Friday night with friends after a large amount of alcohol!) Sitting in a cinema watching it cold feels a bit like what it must have felt to be a movie goer going to watch porn in a 42nd St fleapit cinema, except now sitting in a multiplex just doesn’t seem to have that same charm.

Regardless of my thoughts anyway, action film fans will be queuing up to see THE RAID and rightly so, I’d rather films like this were screening at your local Cineworld than the usual blockbuster drivel. For me though, here’s hoping director Gareth Evans ups the ante next time round and makes that elusive action flick to challenge the likes of the Lee and Chan classics – if he does, I’ll be front of the queue to check it out!

Meantime, here’s the Claymation version of the film to keep you entertained…

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by Momentum Pictures