On a Friday in October 1993, a group of film nuts gathered in the Irish Film Centre (as it was then) for a very special event: a John Woo triple bill of Bullet in the Head, The Killer and Hard Boiled - each introduced by the director himself. Among the audience were people who had spent the 1980s watching the likes of Blastfighter, Eliminators and Pray for Death during marathon VHS sessions; or who had heard Woo namechecked by new cult hero Quentin Tarantino; or who, if they were really, really lucky (and the Hardy Bucks types who kept renting it actually brought it back), had managed to rent The Killer at a video shop. With each Woo movie screened the newcomers' excitement and realisation that they were in the presence of greatness grew, and by the time Hard Boiled blasted its way into Temple Bar that Friday night, people were turning to each other and saying things like, 'My God, I haven't felt this way since Die Hard'.
Well, The Raid... will inspire the exact same feelings as that Friday in 1993. And then some.
Written and directed by Welshman Gareth Huw Evans, it tells the story of rookie Indonesian SWAT cop Rama (legend-in-the-making Iko Uwais), who is dispatched with his team to a no-go high-rise in the Jakarta slums. The building is home to Tama (Sahetapy), the crime boss and de facto landlord who has populated his 15-storey kingdom with the city's most desperate and dangerous tenants. There are lookouts on every floor, closed-circuit cameras around every corner and, in Jakarta's police precincts, cops on the payroll. Oh, there's also a bodyguard called Mad Dog (Ruhian) who, we are told, is "a mania of fists and feet that would tear down a wall for his boss".
Welcome to Hell.
Rama and his colleagues dispose of the courtyard sentry, gain access to the building and start their bone-crunching, floor-by-floor sweep. The mission goes to plan until the fifth floor, where they lose the element of surprise and Tama decides that his guests deserve a very special kind of welcome: if the inhabitants of the tower block kill all the cops, he'll allow them to live rent-free for life. Out come the machetes and the games begin.
It's one of the best things about being a film nut: watching a brilliant new find and saying to yourself, 'I'm going to see this again - and tell everyone I know to go too'. And anyone who adores a brilliant set-piece and jump-in-the-seat excitement will be saying that roughly once a minute while watching The Raid.... Put simply, it's a game changer. While the plot is end-of-level-boss in terms of complexity, Evans has created such a stunning and exhilarating experience that your movie life suddenly seems like it was really dull without it. If you thought Ong-Bak was the best action fest since Hard Boiled, you'll be revising your opinion and, perhaps, ranking this above Woo's masterpiece.
After The Raid..., you can expect to hear tonnes more about the movie's featured martial art, Pencak Silat. Evans became smitten with it - and The Raid... stars Uwais and Ruhian - while making a documentary in Indonesia. The moves are incredible and you'll want to see more of them in Merantau, the film Evans made in 2009, and Berandal, the follow-up he's now planning to The Raid.... Rarely has a sequel been so deserving and the wait so agonising.
A week on from watching this, and the adrenaline shakes are still coming. Don't forget to breathe in the cinema.