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Directed by:
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aka Russkiy Reyd
Directed by Denis Kryuchkov
Russian Language with English Subtitles
On Blu-Ray Now

Former Spetsnaz sniper Nikita is hired to head an acquisition mission with the objective to take out all the private security at a factory, who are said to be unarmed, in order for the officials to press the board of directors into selling the business. However, it seems Nikita has other motivations for taking the job.

If scrappy thrillers are your bag, then Denis Kryuchkov’s RUSSIAN RAID may well be up your street as one man looks to seek revenge by doing what he does best; kick ass. Just don’t expect anything quite like the blood-pumping martial arts spectacle that is Gareth Evan’s The Raid, what the film is said to be inspired by, and you’ll be fine.

Following an opening that introduces us to lead character Nikita, played by Ivan Kotik, facing his past whilst serving in the army, we see him recruiting a team of young men, most of whom seem too strong-headed to follow any sorts of orders but have the energy and fighting skills to put away the average security guard. Also in the group is an older male thug, an elder gentleman, who says very little but seems a dab-hand at picking locks, and a young, suited representative who hangs back and lets the guys take care of security whilst he deals with the paperwork. Along for the ride are two female employees of the company they all work for – the notary and an assistant. However, their presence is hardly worth mentioning when all they tend to be is background scenery and expendable collateral. Nikita and his men are tasked with subduing any security members at their target location where they intend to extort the business from the owners. What follows is an onslaught of scenes featuring muscular men punching, kicking and throwing camouflaged heavies around as they work their way through the different rooms inside the factory until they come face-to-face with the man in charge… or at least, that’s the plan.

RUSSIAN RAID feels like a lot of the homegrown gangster movies we get in the UK – the lower budget, independent ones usually set in London with familiar ‘hard nut’ faces in the starring roles that seem more bark than bite. RUSSIAN RAID is meant to be a straight action flick but, at the same time, injects a little bit of comedy into the screenplay. It can’t really help itself when the set of thugs dishing out the beatings are dressed head to toe in Adidas or like-branded tracksuits. The filmmakers aren’t shy about poking fun at their characters,  something they do later in the film when their presence is questioned by a set of military-trained thugs, and they say they’re a rap group. To be honest, that’s more plausible than the truth given their appearance!

Fight fans will no doubt enjoy some of the fight choreography here. It’s very natural rather than the flashy, wow-factor combat we’re used to from other movies such as the aforementioned The Raid but that’s not a bad thing. Embracing various styles, including combat sambo, wing chun and kali, whilst one character indulges in his fondness for rear naked choke submissions, there’s plenty of fight scenes to sink your teeth into, most of which don’t involve firearms. There’s also a bit of weapon play too which is quite unexpected. However welcome, the presence of weapons feels shoe-horned in entirely for the purpose of fight scenes as a security guard sits in his period bladed-weapons shrine of a security room – something you wouldn’t expect to see in reality. As I said, this film doesn’t take itself too seriously even though it has a certain objective in mind. Ivan Kotik plays his part here as the calm and collected martial artist, who’s able to parry and defend with such skill, his character relating back to the footwork learned from his days traditional dancing as a kid. This is something boxer Vasyl Lomachenko attributes his out-of-this-world movement to and we know JCVD studied ballet growing up so clearly dancing has its place in combat. MMA fighter Valdimir Mineev also stars in the film as one of Nikita’s men and puts his skills to good use as he fights the private security as well as facing off against Nikita during a jostle for leadership. It’s clear that Nikita is the cool-headed and calm one out of the group who has a single focus and has clearly not taken the job for the fun of it but for a different motive altogether.

Despite its best intentions, RUSSIAN RAID just lacks the conviction and depth needed to push it along. The early scenes of the film with the yobs brawling with the private security force gets tiresome pretty quickly and if feels that every subsequent scene is a repeat of the former. Once it gets past the 30 minute mark, it begins to pick up as the two representative for the company meet face to face, but even then we have to endure a few more scrappy fight scenes as Nikita’s leadership and morals are challenged by the group of young men he leads. The latter of the half of the film then descends into a cat and mouse chase as guns are thrown into the mix, forcing Nikita to call upon his specialist training in order to lure, trap and execute the opposition. Whilst there’s never a dull moment in terms of action, it does feel like the running time could have been tightened somewhat with some of the combat scenes feeling rather unnecessary and just an excuse to show off the fight skills of the actors involved. And that’s coming from someone who is a combat enthusiast.

RUSSIAN RAID embraces the simplicity of its idea but unfortunately never seems to rise above the parapet to truly thrill as desired.

Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

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About Bat 4385 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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