I've been hearing good things about The Raid for years, so was really excited when I was given it for Christmas. Six months later, I eventually got around to watching it and wow, what a rush. It's a gritty, incredibly choreographed, and hyper-violent kung fu movie with heaps of tension and ridiculous number of stunt artists. From about the 30-minute mark, the film is pretty much one long fight scene, but the pacing works really well and whilst there are the occasional moments where it feels a little unrealistic, for the most part the characters do exhibit enough fatigue and damage to make their fate something you're invested in.
The plot itself is pretty minute: elite police task force attempt to bring down an underworld crime lord who never leaves his high-rise apartment block (which is filled with his illegal operations and various criminal elements that are under his protection). The twists include the fact that our main protagonist (a rookie on the police squad) discovers that his brother is the crime lord's right-hand man, and that the commanding officer is a bent cop who has been tricked into this mission by a rival gang that actually just wants to remove him from the equation. Most of the police are killed in the first hour, leaving an increasingly small band of characters that have had some actual dialogue, many of whom are also subsequently killed off.
Right at the end there is a slight suggestion that the hero's brother actually orchestrated the entire affair, but I prefer the plot if that isn't the case and he's just happy that he gets to inherit the crime empire so I'm going to ignore it. There's also the similarities with Dredd, though it turns out both movies were basically created simultaneously and launched within months of one another, so these are genuinely coincidental.
Acting is good throughout. Our main hero is a little stilted at times, but then his action sequences are superb. I do wish he'd actually pick up a weapon from time-to-time. The amount of knives and police batons he just walks past is a little infuriating at times. There's also the occasional moment where CGI is obviously used, such as the one goon that breaks his back on the edge of a stairwell, which largely haven't aged that well, but most of the movie is practical effects so looks great. You've also got a lot of infinite-ammo guns and of course the hero should be dead several times over by the end, but it never pushes the boundaries too far. Gore is also treated fairly well; it's present and there are moments where you will cringe (the impalation on the broken door frame 🤢) but it never feels truly excessive.
As an action movie, then, it was brilliant. The plot was just twisty enough to keep me engaged, the story was just realistic enough to be interesting, and the fight choreography was consistently jaw-dropping. There are throwaway shots in The Raid which would be grand finales in other films 😂 I'm not convinced we needed a sequel, nor can I guess what it might be (brother vs brother makes sense but feels like it would undermine a lot of the first film), but I'll definitely enjoy watching it.