Prepare Yourselves for The Raid

I’m a long time admirer of Asian action cinema. Introduced to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan at a young age, I’ve been watching and keeping tabs on films coming out of the east since then, such as the Ong Bak and Ip Man series. Many of these never get proper American distribution; the only way to find them is knowing where to look. However, one film is making a breakthrough garnering serious festival buzz and high praise for its relentless mixed combat and film direction. The latest movie to shake up the action scene and make a splashy stateside debut is The Raid: Redemption, and it’s coming to destroy you.

I heard about The Raid several months ago from a film website that was giving it rave reviews, saying the crowd was cheering and yelling for its action sequences and intensity. It wasn’t hard to see why after immediately watching the trailer.

In the rare case the trailer confused you (or you can’t watch it), it’s straightforward and almost video game-ish (and in no way is that bad at all): a SWAT team is sent to capture a drug lord in an abandoned multi-story apartment complex. Upon arriving at the top, they discover the drug lord isn’t there, and instead has set up a trap for the squad by filling the entire complex with drug addled criminals and thugs and offering rewards for killing the SWAT team. It then becomes a fight to survive, making their way out of the complex and trying to track down the drug lord to put him away for good.

At the time, there wasn’t much talk of bringing it stateside; distribution was being sought but American cinema hasn’t had interest in Asian action films for quite some time. Jackie Chan led the way in the 90’s, with Jet Li following in his wake; since then, overseas action films have been far and few in theaters, with the majority landing on Netflix to the delight of action connoisseurs everywhere. However, The Raid convinced Sony Pictures to pick it up, remake it with new executive producer Gareth Evans (the original Indonesian producers serve as producers again), and give it stateside release, as well as giving it some additional polish to highlight its American debut.

On top of new name (for legal reasons only; someone already had The Raid trademarked) and a new trailer, Sony commissioned a brand new score by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. Before you go assuming that this will end up sounding anything like their credit sequence work in the Transformers series (I’m looking at you, Mike McKellar), be aware that solo Shinoda has an entirely different feel than Shinoda with Linkin Park. Shinoda has had my respect ever since he produced the criminally underrated Reanimation remix LP, and after listening to his soundtrack work for The Raid, that respect has only increased. It blends ominous drones with tension-filled uptempo pieces and industrial-esque sounds with hip-hop drums and beats for a dynamic soundtrack. I can’t wait to see it set to film; one of my favorite tracks is “Drug Lab”, which is featured in the trailer above (it’s great running music!).

The film is slowly being rolled out to US markets this month (see when it’s playing near you here). I’m extremely excited that I’ll be seeing it tonight at its opening in San Jose. Word is that Sony’s looking to make this a trilogy if it does well, which is music to all action aficionados’ ears. I also hope that this starts a revival of Asian action cinema coming stateside, a la Jackie Chan’s 90’s takeover. It certainly has the potential.

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