Review Roundup - Attack the Block

THE RAID (2011) 

With sequel now here I took a fresh look at what was touted by some as the "best action movie of the last ten years" at the time, having never given it a proper write up. While this hyperbolic quote is a little absurd and there have been many greats in martial arts cinema during this period from the likes of Tony Jaa and Donnie Yen, it does sum up the kind of impact it must have had on general audiences on release. Having seen Warrior King (The Protector) and Ip Man amongst many others, a new entry in the genre was never going to blow me away like this, but it has to be said this is a solid piece of work that should sate all but the most sadistic action fans. (Side note - did that "Redemption" part of the title get dropped or was it never on screen in the film itself? Anyway, it was a terrible idea).

Gareth Evan's ultra no frills drug bust movie is a dark, dirty, bloody, brutal affair. It's certainly a nastier experience than you'd normally expect in this kind of picture. In sharp contrast to the dance like movements of the fighting, there's an excess of stabbing, gouging and point blank shooting to the head. But in a way, a film about violence should not hold back from showing the results, and censoring everything detracts from the reality that guns and weapons have unpleasant outcomes. I mentioned this in our Winter Soldier review but of course Steven Rogers never brutally murders anyone with pieces of glass - the content suits the genres. I find it hard to believe anyone in Hollywood is considering a remake of this, I don't think they have the stomach for it. Even hearing this had been directed by a Western film maker at the time I almost expected fight obscuring shaking cam to appear, but there is no such thing as backs break, blood spurts and sharp objects go through their victims to scrape against nearby walls. It's an eye watering experience.

This contributes a strange horror atmosphere to it all, along with the decaying urban setting and a number of moments where the police unit becomes trapped without weapons in the dark and dirty corridors - there's a constant level of tension through most of the film. It some how has a John Carpenter vibe in places, almost like Precinct 13 but with the siege indoors. Everyone looks so unhealthy, both the cops and the thugs hunting them are pale and sweaty. The colour grading of the film itself adds to this with a heavily desaturated look to everything; it's a grimy film. I have to mention that amongst all this grit the soundtrack is surprisingly nice in a number of quieter moments, and of course it's used  to amplifies the parts where the rhythm picks up to match the choreography.

One of my only real problems with this is that it probably peaks too early. The initial raid itself is so explosive with a shoot out and a kitchen siege scene, it takes time for the later sequences to regain momentum. There's also a night stick versus knives fight in the first half, and I found that to be one of the most memorable set pieces. It's an almost exhausting experience by the end that the final showdown feels a little small in scale. But these are small issues. It might not have any real character depth and the bits of development that do take place are clichéd but it's at least full on in the parts that matter. Despite holding no surprises it delivers where it counts.