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5 Classic Action Films Vs. THE RAID

20 Aug 2012
THE RAID is finally on general release. So, finally you understand why Daniel and I have been singing its praises these last few months. In fact, so universal has the acclaim been for Gareth Evan’s masterpiece, general consensus is that it may well be the best action film for a decade. To me, this seems a needless understatement of its relevance.
This is what Evans and Uwais did to my expectations...
This is what Evans and Uwais did to my expectations...
As something of an Action Cinema connoisseur these past twenty seven odd years, my mission is to prove THE RAID now acts as the very fulcrum about which the notion of action pivots! Naturally, I understand a reluctance to concede, the reflex to disagree and probably call me rude words. I can sympathize. I too was raised on that strict diet of Bruce Willis, Chow Yun Fat, Yuen Woo Ping and some guy by the name of Schwarzenegger. ‘It wasn’t THAT good, surely...’ Actually folks, it was. And for the sanctity of argument itself, I’m willing to put my movie where my mouth is and pit THE RAID against five of the most lauded action films of all time.THE RAID vs. Terminator 2
Arguably Cameron’s finest hour, undoubtedly so in terms of straight action, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is punctuated by protracted chases, pioneering CGI, a nut-job stunt team and glimmers of futuristic combat. It’s also a very dissimilar beast to THE RAID.T2’s gunfights are numerous and extended, while THE RAID’s is singular and brutally swift. Conversely the former offers quick scuffles during which superhuman combatants pound on each other til one falls down. The latter’s are tiered, complex affairs offering numerous archetypes (group melee, weapons fight, two on one) and performers with seemingly meta-human speed. Finally, at its heart T2 is a chase film. THE RAID is an escape caper. At 101 minutes, THE RAID grips it and rips it at breakneck pace, while Terminator 2 offers a more sedate tempo for its 137 minutes. Both stack tension in disparate yet exhilarating manners, with the foil of a seemingly unstoppable antagonist.
Ultimately, all can be distilled to the grade of action tendered. Despite a laser lit prologue, spectacular truck jumping and that iconic mini-gun sequence, the T-800 yields nothing to answer Rama’s appallingly excellent machete clash.THE RAID vs. The Matrix
Arguably the list’s most apt parallel, The Matrix flaunts ballistic firearm frays and white knuckle martial arts, yet armours them within a traditionally western vibe. Choreographed by the legendary Yuen Woo Ping, despite their 13 years, The Matrix’s fight scenes remain unequalled by Hollywood’s subsequent efforts. But with THE RAID, Woo Ping faces the combined artistry of Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, not some choppy drivel via an inexperienced second unit with precious little flair for the kinetic!THE RAID counters The Matrix’s superior budget and visual effects with a flurry of imaginative, gory contests. As stunning as it was to witness Trinity’s helicopter ripple a skyscraper’s glass frame before detonation, it was no less magical staring slack-jawed as Rama storms the meth lab for a lengthy sequence. One of THE RAID’s six such set pieces!
In The Matrix’s defence, the Wachowskis are no slouches when it comes to script. The amalgamation of post apocalyptic science fiction and predeterminism philosophy trumps the literally-no-time-to-think reductive writing of Merantau Films’ second feature. I am most assuredly not criticizing THE RAID’s sleek, streamlined approach. But The Matrix earns points for its intellectual endeavours. Still, THE RAID’s relentless pursuit of adrenaline knocks the Wachowski’s finest hour from its pedestal.The Matrix – Defeated? Yes, but in this instance, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.THE RAID vs. The Avengers
The most recent participant by some measure, The Avengers earns its stripes by being A) really stinkin’ good and B) the only Hollywood action film in years even worth considering! With a budget 200 times larger than its opponent, Joss Whedon brings the bombast like none other, particularly during the gloriously destructive Chitauri invasion. A $1m Indonesian action flick directed by a budding welsh director simply cannot trade blows on this front!
But for all its wit, property damage and raging thunder gods, there’s nary a scene in The Avengers to match the swelling dread as Sergeant Jaka desperately fights off the feral beating of Yayan’s Mad Dog. That said, even THE RAID struggles for an analogue to The Avengers’ unquestionably marvellous HULK scenes, perhaps the most honest and well received Fan Service in cinema history! But while THE RAID cannot answer that moment when Ruffalo hulks out and one-punches the Giant Space Worm of Doom, The Avengers has no riposte to the savage, blisteringly dynamic two on one Deathmatch which caps Iko Uwais’ second motion picture.While The Avengers (only occasionally) falters in clarity and editing, the Mad Dog/Rama/Andi finale is clear, intricate and shot with such blinding intensity even the permanently juiced Captain A would struggle to keep pace.THE RAID vs. Drunken Master 2
Jackie Chan is the greatest action star to ever suck air. I’ll tolerate no argument here. For pushing fifty years he has been hurling his wiry self about like a rag doll, composing symphonies of feet and fists, honing his own brand of slapstick humour and fabricating new ways to utilize props and endanger his safety.Drunken Master 2 stands as any one of a dozen titles which could easily sparkle as the pinnacle of his awesome career. Yet considering the third degree burns he endured throughout the three month shoot required for the ten minute super-kicking, lightning hands, stunt filled finale, I’ve gone for the up-til-now unmatched Drunken Master 2.
It will be years, decades even, before Iko Uwais even approaches Jackie’s latent physicality orGareth Evans snares his eye for extravagant set pieces. However the Evans/Uwais super-combo have one substantial advantage – time.THE RAID was filmed last year. Its crew enjoyed fifty years of inspiration to draw upon, a contemporary model for swelling tension and didn’t feel compelled to slap in miscellaneous humour where it mightn’t have fit. And while THE RAID may lack a performance piece as staggeringly ingenious as Jackie’s staggering Wong Fei Hung, Evans, Uwais and Ruhian pack their 101 minutes with such spectacle it manages to overshadow this former standard bearer of Kung Fu Cinema. If only just.THE RAID vs. Die Hard
Ah Die Hard. If action cinema was monarchy, Die Hard would be king. True, there are ever princes, dukes and lords stronger, faster, braver and smarter than their liege. But for whatever reason (fealty, honour, Bruce Willis) the people bend their knee to but one!THE RAID is such a prince. And nostalgia notwithstanding, the aging monarch simply daren’t duel this newest member of the royal family. The two films are, obviously, conceptually similar. The sky scraping opulence of the Nakatomi Plaza mirrors the thirty story derelict in Jakarta’s slums. McClane’s word weariness contrasts Rama’s rookie enthusiasm as both cops discover themselves ill-prepared as the excrement hits the extractor. But at no point does John McClane Fridge-Bomb a hallway load of rifle-wielding hoodlums! True, McClane’s likeability, coupled with a supporting cast of quirky villains, jolly beat cops and surly special agents colours McTiernan’s flagship with a personality THE RAID doesn’t actually have the spare screen-time for.
But alternatively THE RAID moulds a far greater sense of danger, the Jakartan Slum transforming into a nightmarish prison inside of three minutes. Elsewhere, the Nakatomi Plaza fails to truly shake its affable nature. But as an Action Film, by definition a film which concerns itself with the delivery of action, there is scant comparison to be had.
Action Cinema (Left) THE RAID (Right), A Metaphor
Action Cinema (Left) THE RAID (Right), A Metaphor
I’ll not detract from McClane’s fire hose jump, barefoot gunbattle or his bloody encounter with Gruber’s burly henchman. But Rama empties his clips into foes, explodes a fridge, cracks some jerk’s skull against a tiled wall multiple times, breaks a multi story fall on the broken body of a machete wielding thug, fights off a dozen men in a meth lab and snaps the arms of his most vicious foe before opening his throat with a fluorescent tube. I’m sorry folks, but when it comes to pure action, Die Hard has got nothing on THE RAID.
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