Fight! Fight! Fight! an Indonesian Martial-Arts Movie from a Young Welsh Director Proves a Surprisingly Exciting Affair; FILM OF THE WEEK

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton

THE RAID Cert 18, 101 mins SUCH a lot of talent comes out of Wales. Ivor Novello, Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Rhys Ifans, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Sheen, to name only the bleeding obvious.

Not so much stays in Wales, though, despite the best efforts of S4C, Bafta Cymru, and of course The Film Agency for Wales, or Asianteath Ffilm Cymru CBC, as it is better known. What can the explanation be? Even so, there's hardly ever before been quite such a drastic example of talent out of Wales as Gareth Huw Evans, the writer, director and action director of this radical martial arts film, made and set in Jakarta, using only Indonesian actors, speaking only Indonesian throughout.

Evans, still in his early thirties, comes from a mining town in Mid Glamorgan and started his career in film making web videos for Welsh language tuition in Swansea. Then his Indonesian wife, Maya, helped him nab a job in Jakarta making a documentary about the national martial art, silat. Evans, who had grown up on Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and kung fu films, grabbed the chance. He has never come back to live in Wales.

While making the documentary, Evans spotted the talent of a young fighter, Iko Uwais, then working as a delivery van driver. Three years ago, the director made a cult martial arts film, Merantu, with Uwais -- and he stars again in The Raid, this time made with international producers, although still extremely economical in its settings. Uwais is great, quite slight and nice-looking, but formidably focused and astonishingly fast in his moves.

In a Jakarta slum, an evil drug lord, Tama, rules over a whole 15-storey tower-block, defying the police. A secret special-forces raid is launched to take him out and for rookie cop Rama, played by Uwais, it's a bloody initiation. Quite soon after entry into the building, nearly all the troops have been slaughtered by Tama's guards and the amazingly aggressive residents. With no way out, Rama goes on the attack, fighting his way up the building floor by floor to Tama's lair.

Give or take a bit of double-dealing on both sides, that's the entire plot, such as it is. It is no more than a pretext for lots and lots of fights, with fists, elbows, feet, guns and machetes, and anything else to hand, including a range of white goods.

Rama's deadliest opponent, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), a pony-tailed, droopyfaced tornado of destruction, is a gent in his way, because he prefers to kill his enemies in fair, unarmed combat. …