Have you heard the one about the Welshman who wrote and directed a martial arts film set in Jakarta? It's bloody brilliant. What may initially sound like a joke delivers a powerful punchline in Gareth Evans's brutal and engrossing action thriller.
A simple tale of a group of police officers trapped in an apartment block infested with criminals is given a ferocious visual treatment by Evans. The audacious fight sequences are pure and raw spectacle, often leaving you wondering how in the hell the actors pulled off the moves. Not that the movie leaves you much time to ponder, given that it hurtles along at breakneck speed.
Many modern action movies try to generate cinematic adrenalin and visceral thrills through quickfire cutting, but Evans adopts the opposite strategy. His long, uninterrupted and unflinching shots serve to place the viewer in the heart of the battle and masterfully highlight the jaw-dropping choreography and physical skills of the performers. One does wonder how many of the cast ended up in A&E during filming!
The Raid wouldn't be nearly as effective if it lacked a human core. Someone to root for amidst the carnage. This is provided by the sensational Iko Uwais as Rama, a loyal and moral SWAT team officer who is determined to overthrow the ruthless drugs baron who rules the apartment and rescue his crooked brother at the same time.
Sympathy for his plight is also bolstered by that staple of the genre - a pregnant wife stuck at home hoping for her husband's safe return. Hardly original, but it's barely dwelled upon and that morsel of narrative information is sufficient cause to root for Rama when combined with the earnest nature of Uwais's performance and his character's noble intentions.
One easily ignored 'star' of the movie is the apartment block itself. Its claustrophobic and dangerous environment lends itself superbly to the action and premise, much like the similar building in the impressive Spanish horror flick [REC]. As for the menacing marauders who roam the floors in search of blood, they are led by the terrifying Mad Dog - played in a mesmerising manner by Yayan Ruhian.
Knives, guns, chairs, light bulbs and anything that isn't bolted to the floor is a potential lethal weapon in this arena. As for the clever use of a fridge in one sequence, it totally shows up Indiana Jones's mind-boggling use of the food storage facility in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!
Packed full of innovation and excitement, The Raid could well turn out to be a game changer for the genre.