GORE IN THE STORE
RUSSIAN RAID **
Directed by Denis Kryuchkov.
Starring Ivan Kotik, Vladimir Mineev, Nikita Kologrivyy, Sergey Podolniy.
Action, Russia, 103 minutes, certificate 15.
Released on Blu-ray March 22nd by Eureka Entertainment.
Ever since its release in 2011 the promise of a remake of Gareth Evan’s action masterpiece THE RAID has always seemed to be a constant threat, although it now seems to be fading away as Hollywood executives, in a rare act of common sense, seem to have realised that there really is no logic in improving what was nearly perfect in the first place. The fact that there have been next to no imitations, aside from the coincidence of the simultaneously filmed DREDD which successfully mined the same premise in its own inimitable fashion, speaks to the power and success of Evan’s instant classic.
RUSSIAN RAID takes the bare bones of the already simple premise of one group of hard men entering an enclosed space to take out another group of hard men only to find themselves outnumbered and outmanoeuvred at every turn. With this Russian spin, which is more obviously inspired by THE RAID than a straight up remake, our hero leading us into the action is soldier for hire Nikita, played by Russian stuntman Ivan Kotik. Nikita is hired by sharp suited businessman Lokh to lead a bunch of track suited heavies into a warehouse that is being used for weapons smuggling. What at first looks like a heavy-handed style of corporate takeover soon turns into a fight for survival as warehouse’s owners arrive on the scene and the revelation for Nikita’s interest in the warehouse is also revealed.
With a cast populated by a number of MMA fighters one could be forgiven for expecting a bruising, no holds barred action extravaganza. What is delivered instead is an oddly paced film that more often than not seems like a well-presented demo reel for a skilled fight choreographer. The actual story of the film does not come into focus until about halfway through and this is after a series of characters are introduced only for half of them to vanish without trace or purpose, including one fight scene that just comes to a sudden stop without any conclusion or reason for doing so at all. Even those characters that do stick around fail to develop or stick in the memory immediately after the film has finished.
Despite its very impressive fight choreography, often filmed in lengthy single takes and managing at various times to fill the frame with multiple fights on screen, RUSSIAN RAID fails to land a single punch. The action feels lightweight and carries no sense of threat, lacking the bone cracking intensity that can be found in the likes of Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto’s works. Even compared to other recent Russian genre efforts like WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE, which managed to achieve more in a far more claustrophobic location on every level that is attempted here, this film comes up as lacking more often than not.
The Blu-ray is bare bones but is at least presented in its original language, even if the optional subtitles are often misspelt and often improperly presented. The picture quality however is first rate. A shame then that the films oddball jaunty tone is out of place and that the exciting choreography is abandoned for a lacklustre shoot ‘em up populated by unconvincing CGI gunfire and blood spurts. Sadly, RUSSIAN RAID never really achieves more than being an item of interest for RAID completists and MMA trivia enthusiasts.