Do you remember when Jackie Chan movies felt dangerous? When you watched The Legend of the Drunken Master and couldn’t stop covering your eyes because you knew everything was really happening? There was a period in Jackie Chan’s career where he risked his life every day for the sole purpose of giving children funny sight-gags. There was something inherently dazzling about those movies, and something dazzling about the Bruce Lee movies before them.
The only special effect in those films was the delusion that the star wasn’t going to die. I thought that the time of the truly dangerous martial arts movie had ended when Jackie Chan got too old to swing around chainsaws. But I was wrong!
Gareth Evans, the Welsh filmmaker behind The Raid: Redemption, has given us one of the best, most pure action movies I’ve seen since Jackie Chan’s terrifying zipline trick in Mr. Nice Guy. We are watching jaw-dropping fight scenes choreographed in real time, shot from an angle with merciful geographical perspective, and performed by true masters of their craft.
It’s a joy to watch old school action filtered through a modern lens. I had forgotten the rush of watching stunt men and trained fighters working out beautifully realized fight scenes. Not because I wanted to forget, but because most movies don’t invest in the time it takes to produce scenes of this quality.
The Raid: Redemption not only offers some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen, but it features dozens of them. The entire movie is a fight scene. There’s no room for plot, here, action junkies.
Unlike recent martial arts films, The Raid: Redemption is not an historical epic that works hard to bring context to its violence. Unlike IP Man or Fearless or House of Flying Daggers, The Raid: Redemption never goes out of its way to make excuses for the action on-screen. In fact, the story is almost hilariously simple.
Bad guys are in this building. The police need to kill all of the bad guys.
That’s pretty much all you get in terms of plot, and honestly, that’s all you’ll need.
I don’t want to spoil what happens next. I don’t want to spoil anything, really, so this will be a very short review.
If you like action movies, you’ll like this movie. If you don’t like violence, don’t watch this movie.
If you can’t stand watching movies with subtitles, make an exception.