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Furious fighting; Relentless violence becomes tiresome by movie's end

There is a moment of snide and energetic cynicism at the end of the Farrelly Brothers' "The Three Stooges" (see the review on Page 6) that everybody probably ought to see before they essay the ultra-mega-violent Indonesian martial arts film "The Raid: Redemption."

A couple of absurdly unlikely actors come out claiming to be the Farrelly Brothers and do a "kids don't try this at home" disclaimer. They remind the audience that all hammers used to bash Stooge skulls were rubber. And that every sound of violent collision was a sound effect.

If "The Raid: Redemption" isn't the most violent film I've ever seen, the whole question of just what might be becomes a crashing irrelevance after you spend 101 minutes in the film's company. At that point, you're definitely talking about a distinction without a difference.

And, of course, it's all showbiz violence -- special effects and sound-edited bulletry and truly extraordinary martial arts choreography plus sound effects to convey the constant body blows and smash of skulls and other body parts into hard surfaces.

And, just as the Three Stooges were the most violent practitioners of slapstick ever to become a comic phenomenon in America, there's something unintentionally comic about the unremitting assault on body and soul that is the film.

There are some protracted bone-shattering fights in which the principals wind up at the end without crippling injury and with less blood makeup on them than there was when they started. Given the fantasy assault on life and limb we've just witnessed, the impossibility of that is remarkably stupid, if not monstrous.

Yes, yes, I know all about cartoons and video games, but still. This pretends to have some reality.

And then there are those constant martial arts kicks and leg whips which leave groin areas throughly open to attack for long enough that any moderately gifted martial "artist" could do serious show-stopping damage, if not quite afflict sufferers with permanent malfunction.

Does every cop and bad guy in Indonesia -- where it was filmed -- wear an athletic cup? If not, it occurred to me that very early on a lot of these martial artists batterings would have been severely truncated in length if some of those flying fists and feet had been applied to the point of most fabled vulnerability on the male body.

But, believe me, no humor was intended. Not even close. It's just supposed to be constant shooting, battering, bludgeoning, suffering and dying for the appetites of midnight movie types, whatever time of day they're watching.

A nice-guy cop prays on his prayer mat, kisses his pregnant wife goodbye and then takes part in an obscurely motivated raid on an Indonesian mega-thug and the apartment house full of fellow thugs that he rules over. So a SWAT team, then, is trapped into a battle against absurd numerical odds embodied by a huge (and apparently never-ending) platoon of the worst guys in town.

The body count by movie's end may reach four figures. But who could possibly count? It's just, quite literally, relentless from beginning to end, with periodic insincere stops at dialogue and storytelling, which is all tied up at movie's end with a big fat possibility for further unfathomable slaughter and mayhem in a sequel.

It would be nice to claim that male action movie appetites aren't large enough to absorb and even, at times, enjoy all of this anti-human annihilation of human bodies. In fact, though, the film's box office thus far has disproved that quite soundly.

As much as I tried to get into the martial arts/video game spirit of it all, I was quite tired of the movie by the time we reached the far turn. I knew the home stretch -- even a minor plot resolution -- was coming, just as I knew all the way through how very much choreographic and filmmaking skill went into all this pretend bloodletting and assault.

I just didn't care anymore.

I don't know about you, but I'm personally not looking forward to the inevitable sequel.




2 1/2 stars (out of 4)    

STARRING: Iko Uwais, Ray Sahetapy, Ananda George, Yahan Ruhian    

DIRECTOR: Gareth Evans    

RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes    

RATING: R for language and nonstop violence, viciousness and brutality.    

THE LOWDOWN: Indonesian martial arts film that became a midnight movie and Internet sensation because of its relentless shooting, battering and bone-smashing mayhem. In Indonesian with subtitles.