Comparing a film to a video game is generally a slight made by critics who couldn’t even turn on a console. Being marked as such doesn’t mean the production set out to pay homage to video games, instead that they let their excesses overwhelm the production in terms of violence, thin characterization, or sexuality. However, what if a movie really took its cues from a genuine video game experience? The narrative frameworks that grown and evolved with the successful medium? Even the films based on game properties cherry pick pieces from their sources and graft them onto typical Syd Field type screenplays.
The Raid: Redemption takes its structure from a modern first person shooter. The movie itself could almost serve as a playthrough. Gamers want to jump into gameplay as soon as possible therefore the opening exposition cannot linger. The characters and basic setup are established within six minutes. Afterwards there is a brief stealth sequence where the rules of the game and physics of the world are established on a small scale. And the remainder of the experience is almost all action. Further exposition and plot points are rewarded after finishing an action sequence or level. To top it off, an ending somehow briefer than the opening exposition.
The plot of The Raid is a trifle, a few random pieces of familiar action movie tropes stitched together until there’s justification to send an elite SWAT unit to bring down a sadistic slumlord. He’s safely hidden on the fifteenth floor of an apartment building that houses quite a few criminal activities. From cooking drugs, running guns, housing addicts and his loyal gang members.
The actual raid of course goes very bad. The elite SWAT team are quickly whittled down to just a few speaking roles with no backup coming to save them. Among these a rookie officer soon finds himself separated and fending for himself against the roving gangs and snipers. Fortunately he’s more than just a mere rookie...
Even the film gets tired of the pace of the onslaught by midway when all of the warring factions seem to run out of bullets at the same time. Maybe the film realized its high rise setting was itself worthy of more than just collecting bullet rounds. The decrepit walls have rotted into a purple hue. A fantastic open court staircase allows for phalanxes to wage war from multiple floors simultaneously. A CCTV system and rickety intercom network allows the villainous slumlord to direct his army.
In the end, The Raid is more thoroughly interesting than completely successful. It leaves the impression that this kind of film could be done better, but also that given time and opportunities director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais are the guys who will eventually better it.