Directed by Ching Siu-tung
Produced by Tsui Hark
Written by Tsui Hark, Yuen Kai-chi
Starring: Dean Shek, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung, Joyce Godenzi and Fennie Yuen
An aging doctor, a few misfits and a group of revolutionaries must take down a gas producing factory from the Japanese puppet regime Manchukuo.
Tsui Hark’s The Raid released in 1991 having no relation what so ever with the much-beloved film of the same name that would be released exactly 20 years after it. The Raid is an odd film, one without watching the film and just reading the plot summary would assume this film is a political thriller or a war film. The Raid isn’t any of those things, but it does have elements of a war film however one would be more comfortable calling it a swashbuckling film. It has the over the top action and crazy slapstick to live up to that swashbuckling name, but of course, its swashbuckling is more of the kung fu variety. A stylistic choice of The Raid that adds to its uniqueness is the choice of comic book panel style scene transitions. Besides the clumsy use of them during some scenes, the comic panel style scene transitions fit the over the top tone and action of The Raid. Almost making the film like a comic book that’s been realized as a live-action film. Given how some of the action scenes push the boundaries of logic even by the standards of an action film, this is very fitting and probably the only way to rationalize all of the sheer absurd moments. All swashbuckling films should be fun to watch; the Raid is no exception here. The mix of the over the top action and equally over the top slapstick makes a very amusing experience. But the most notable comedic moments are a series of amusing misunderstandings. A few manage to impact the main narrative of the movie, an example being the lead villains mistaking Uncle Choi’s name as a code-name for the revolutionaries.
Speaking of Uncle Choi, he’s The Raid protagonist; he isn’t the type of character you would expect in an action film. Since Uncle Choi is an elderly man, and the movie doesn’t forget this aspect of his character. His character development if you can call it that is him proving to himself and to the world in a way, his age doesn’t prevent him from being a capable warrior. It’s handled with quite a bit of sincerity; I think it works to an acceptable level. The others from the cast don’t get anywhere near the same development, but the villains are mildly intriguing at least due to a strong performance by their actors. Not to suggest, the villains are deep, but their connection to each other do make their motivations slightly more interesting. The other heroes are basically one-note characters, but their interactions with each other make them entertaining to watch. Or rather the situations around them make them entertaining characters. The inclusion of the romantic subplot is too rushed to mean anything substantial in the long run, but it does provide at least one scene of high emotions. If The Raid is nothing but a series of elaborate high jinks, then its finale is the biggest high jinks in the entire movie. The scale of the finale isn’t as big you would think however it’s high octane enough to make you forget that. When it’s all over although the overall narrative is a mess in places can leave you satisfied if your expectations are kept low. But, considering the caliber of Tsui Hark’s other work that might be hard.
The Raid shares similar beats of a much stronger Tsui Hark’s classic: Peking Opera Blues although The Raid is several levels above in being over the top, however, its quality is, unfortunately, several levels below Peking Opera Blues.
PS: Upon further research, it turns out indeed this film is based on a comic book of some kind called: Uncle Choi.