My number one list action movie is The Matrix because it balanced the depth of the story with the action. Somewhere among the top list, there was also The Dark Knight for the same reason. However, when speaking only 'action', I used to choose a Hongkong movie, Flashpoint, starred by Donnie Yen. Before Flashpoint, I'll choose a Thailand movie, Ong Bak which launched Tony Jaa career internationally. Now, when I speak an action movie that speak for the action, I will choose an Indonesia movie, 'THE RAID', choreographed by Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhiyan and starred by them.
The problem with Donnie Yen's Flashpoint was you need to wait about one hour and fifteen minutes to get the action really start but when it started, it was really worth to wait. The fight between Donnie Yen and Collin Chou, inspired by MMA especially BJJ was so well choreographed and made audience hold their breath and asking "are this sh*t a real thing?". In Evans' latest, THE RAID, you won't need those one hour and fifteen minutes because he already made the audience gasps in the first fifteen minutes.
I wouldn't say a thing about Ong Bak because in my opinion, Merantau was more superior than Ong Bak. The problem with Merantau was Gareth was trying to bring audience to understand the culture of Silat first because showing the full action.You can said, Merantau was like Yamakasi doing for parkour while The Raid was the B-13 of silat.
It is useless to review this movie from the plot because there wasn't any significant plot. The plot was made only to bridge between one action scene to other action scene. But d*mn! Even with the weak dialog and cliché plot, Gareth executed it well so we, the audience, didn't have time to analyze this or that. What we know, we were flooded by f*cking awesome action movies from infiltration scene, massacre scene, and of course, martial art scenes when the characters have run out of bullets.
I remember when one of Merantau review said Merantau was Ong Bak when handled professionally. The same can be said with THE RAID. The Raid was Flashpoint with larger actions and handled professionally from the music, cinematography, and even the visual effect.
The music composed by Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal was like a combination between Hans Zimmer's Joker theme and Rage Against The Machine. It brought the audience immediately to the brutal tone of the movie. In some scenes, those music suddenly disappeared, leaving uneasiness to the audience. I wonder how Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park will interpret the scene to his score because Prayogi and Yuskemal score was perfect for the tone of this movie and it was really different with any Linkin Park score.
The sound effect, oh my, I hardly believe this is Indonesian movie. Even Hongkong movies are rarely have this good sound effect, You can differentiate between the bullet shot next to you to the bullet shot from the next room, The sound of knife slashing was so beautiful to listen and combined by the beautiful art of Silat, the scene was a masterpiece of a brutal dance of angel of death.
THE RAID has little visual effect but when they did, it was done amazingly and effectively. Frankly, prior to watch this movie, I was a little bit disappointed when I heard there will be slow-motion scene in the movie. However, Gareth proved me wrong. He was not Zack Snyder. The slow-motion was done only in one scene and perfectly executed which I hardly imagined how it should be done in other way.
Matt Flanery and Dimas Subhono as DOP played camera creatively and yet it captured all the motion perfectly. In fact, some scenes was like a scene taken from art movie due to their creative angle but it didn't reduce the brutal tone of the movie, didn't make the impact of every punch and kick weaker, in fact, in some scenes, it enhanced the "BAM!" factor.
The choreography was the factor which made this movie popular. I have said previously that even the fight scene between Donnie Yen and Collin Chou in Flashpoint had been surpassed by almost every fight scene in the movie. In Merantau, Gareth didn't want to show the brutal image of silat due to the main character of that movie was a naive and kind young man from village. In this movie, the characters are cops and bad guy, so either be killed or kill. Both Iko and Yayan have choreographed it so well so even one reviewer said "I didn't know there was so many ways to kill people until I saw this movie" and he was right. Jeff Imada (Bourne Identity) and Yuen Woo Ping will recognize these people from Indonesia and you'll probably hear about them in coming years among the top list of fight choreographer.
After watching this movie, I found myself lost my appetite to other action movies. For me, other action movies was a snack before I can watch the next Gareth Evans project, BERANDAL.
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