Russian Raid comes to us from first time writer/director Denis Kryuchkov and writers Olga Loyanich and Robert Orr, and other than the fact it involves lots of kung-fu-esque fights in fairly close quarters it bears no real resemblance whatsoever to its inspiration, Gareth Evans’ superlative fighting movie The Raid.
If I had to pick a single word to describe this film, it would be “meh”. Everything about it is just… fine. The plot? It’s fine. The action? Yeah, it’s fine. The acting? Fine. Soundtrack? Fine. Everything about it is so completely and utterly average, and when you’re openly trying to compare yourself to one of the greatest action movies of recent years you need to bring more than “meh” to the table.
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The story revolves around former Russian soldier Nikita (Ivan Kotik – Outcast, The Iron Mask), who signs on with a not particularly professional group of tracksuit-wearing thugs to force an entirely illegal change of ownership of a factory that’s not only a front for vodka, but guns and other weapons as well.
Things go south, as they always do, and soon Nikita is fighting not only his erstwhile allies, but well trained and heavily armed soldiers. There’s lots of people getting beaten up and plenty of scenery destruction. The film moves fairly briskly from set piece to set piece with the actual plot only briefly getting in the way of the action, which is fine as, honestly, the plot is there as little more than window-dressing for all the impact it has. There are some genuinely funny moments, but overall this film is painfully average for a few reasons.
The plot with Nikita and his true rationale for being there is fairly well executed, but the whole thing with them trying to extort control of the factory is a muddled mess. We are also never given any real time to connect with any of the characters other than Nikita, and even then his motives boil down to “revenge” and that’s about it. The rest of them are just there to beat people up.
The sound design for the film is just strange. The fights lack any real sense of impact. There’s no THUMP of flesh on flesh. It’s less Rocky pounding on a frozen slab of beef and more two kids having a slap-fight in a playground. The fights all feel airy and insubstantial despite the skill and physicality on display. You don’t feel any of the hits, and when you have a cast that includes actual, honest to God Russian MMA fighters, that is not what an audience should be thinking or feeling. Even though it’s in Russian (with the dreaded subtitles!), the dialogue all sounds and feels like it’s dubbed, like it’s all ADR rather than recorded on set.
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Even the Blu-ray release is solidly meh, as it only contains the film. No commentary tracks, no featurettes, no trailers, nothing. No real reason to buy it over a digital release unless you have a burning need for a physical disc in your collection.
If you want to watch a film like this, it’s genuinely difficult to recommend Russian Raid when films like The Raid and Dredd exist.
Russian Raid is out now on Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment.