RUSSIAN RAID: A Balletic Showcase For Russian Action Cinema

Let’s get a Raid from every country!

An homage to Gareth Evans’ modern action masterpiece The Raid in both concept and execution, first time director Denis Kryuchkov apparently brought together all sorts of Russian martial artists, body builders, and athletes to create a showcase for Russian action cinema in a delightfully stripped down raid plotline. And, while this film doesn’t hold a candle to Evans’ mind blower (very few films do), I’d nevertheless welcome a Raid homage film from just about every country that wants to prove their action cinema bonafides in a similar fashion.

Russian Raid follows the complicated and bloody tale of Nikita (Ivan Kotik). Complicated may be a strong word, as the ultimate goal of Russian Raid is just to gather a few different factions into a large industrial complex and let them fight each other to the death. But Nikita is playing a long game here. Having been an eyewitness to his father’s murder as a child, Nikita has grown into an elite special forces sniper when he one day sees his father’s murderer through his sniper scope. Botching the job due to his personal desire for revenge, Nikita takes his skills to the black market where he’s able to go undercover in this titular raid and finally achieve his ultimate goal for revenge against his father’s murderer. At first he’s hired to lead a gang of young, tracksuit-wearing Russian hooligan types into this compound, and experiences a bunch of conflict with these knuckleheads as they break in for their own purposes. Other players enter the mix as the raid begins, and things get twisty and turney. Fortunately for Russian Raid, the more things twist, the better the film gets.

It took probably a full hour for Russian Raid to really click with me. I didn’t love how the very few women in the film were depicted, and the tracksuit thugs were just these immature hooligans that I didn’t find compelling, personally. And it seemed like their little crew, under Nikita’s leadership, was going to be the thrust of this whole thing. But midway through, Russian Raid gets more complicated when armed police show up, and now you’ve got multiple warring factions from the tracksuit kids to the criminal empire being raided to the armed police… and Nikita’s true goal of revenge… all playing out at once. This is when it starts to get really fun. And where Kotik really goes into full gear as the outright star of this film.

With small glimpses into Nikita’s childhood as a dancer, I believe Russian Raid was trying to offer a ballet influenced fight film. This is strictly my own read based on the brief dancing flashbacks and the unique kinds of grappling and bobbing and weaving that Nikita uses as he’s taking out bad guys left and right. A Russian ballet inspired fight film much in the way The Raid introduced the world to Silat or Ong Bak showcased Muay Thai. Regardless of whether that’s intentional or I just read into it too much, I really like both the way that Kotik moves in his fight scenes and the way those sequences are captured by Kryuchkov in energetic but clean takes showing off a lot of on screen fighting talent.

And, in a way, Russian Raid is somewhat of an inverse Raid, where it starts out as hand-to-hand combat and then once guns are introduced, all hell breaks loose. The Raid works so spectacularly as bullets run out and any weapon you can grab becomes the desperate survival instinct of its characters. Here, a situation that was supposed to be a fists-only affair becomes more deadly and charged when firearms are introduced. And it’s glorious to see Nikita just absolutely pop off. There’s an extended gun fight that plays out like hide and seek and ultimately the final act of Russian Raid kicks enough ass to offset some of the earlier misgivings I had. There are still some unfortunate gender dynamics at play and not everything works, but Russian Raid certainly introduces a few exciting filmmaking talents from Russia to the international action film community. And I gladly welcome their unique take on my favorite genre.

And I’m Out.

Russian Raid hits Digital, Blu-ray, & DVD March 9th, 2021 from Well Go USA Entertainment

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