Badass of the Week.

Iko Uwais


I'm at the point in running this website (and in my excessive non-fiction-reading career) that I don't usually write website articles about action movie heroes or fictional characters who mindlessly slaughter their way through hordes of garbagetown mooks in a one-sided murder-quest for conquest, justice, and the completely over-the-top brutal annihilation of every man who stands in his path, usually with a ridiculously-liberal use of fists and/or bullets. First, I spend a lot of time writing and researching historical events and my single-minded love of all things old-as-fuck means I don't get to watch a lot of movies these days. Second, I usually feel a much deeper connection with badass historical figures who dealt with real-life problems by taking them head-on and punching adversity in the metaphorical dick with a few thousand roundhouse punches of not-giving-a-shit-fuelled rage, and prefer writing those types of stories to those that exist only in the realm of make-believe. Third, my queue of future badasses is so obscenely long that I have a hard time justifying spending an entire week writing about a fictional character who has been genetically engineered at the molecular level by some deliciously-evil screenwriter to be an over-the-top invincible badass.

Badass Action Heroes have fallen by the wayside.

Then I saw The Raid: Redemption.

This clip is just the first part of an epic, seemingly-endless fight sequence where Indonesian action movie badass Iko Uwais kills about five hundred guys in a shitty hallway armed only with a nightstick and a combat knife.

Aside from posting two short clips and giving a little background, I won't feature any spoilers for the movie because I expect (nay, demand!) that anyone who reads this website go see this fucking movie and I don't want to do anything to ruin it for you. The plot is as basic as you can get, and this script should be fucking taught in screenwriting classes Iko Uwais plays a dude named Rama who works for an Indonesian SWAT Team. There is like five seconds of background on the guy he says his prayers, trains his kung fu (or whatever), and he lives with his dad and his wife, who is hot and also pregnant. Ok, awesome, we're on board, we want him to win, good job. There's no tortured past. No bullshit white suburban teen angst tortured/reluctant/emo hero whateverness. Rama's team is about to go into a gigantic apartment building that serves as a hardened stronghold for an all-powerful, super-evil gang of sadistic criminal douchebag assholes who mainline cocaine and heroin off of dead babies and are much more likely to pull your corpse apart with a claw hammer than they are to donate one dollar to muscular dystrophy when the cashier at the grocery store asks them. The SWAT Team has to go in and arrest or kill every single person they find.

Here's a little bit of what the literature-types like to refer to as "foreshadowing": The mission doesn't go well. Before you know it Iko Uwais is trapped in his own personal Indonesian Die Hard and finds himself unarmed, fighting four psycho cold-blooded murderers with machetes and sinister haircuts and kicking the shit out of them like omg so crazy:

I'll be the first to admit that before Tuesday I honestly didn't really know shit about Indonesia. I could find it on a map, and I'm pretty sure there were some battles fought there during World War II (it seems likely at least), but that's really about it. I honestly was not expecting them to produce a movie so fucking over-the-top hardcore that I would now easily include it among the top ten most badass movies I've ever seen in my entire life (the other nine, off the top of my head right now, would be Taken, Commando, Aliens, Terminator 2, Die Hard, Dirty Harry, Predator, Rambo II, and probably either the first Bourne movie or a Korean action flick called The Man From Nowhere). I shit you not, we were in a pretty crowded theater and fucking grown men in business suits were screaming "HOLY SHIT!" out loud during some of the action scenes, and there was one really-awesome dude a couple rows behind me who responded to every scene with the villains doing heinous shit by nervously groaning, "oh God... toooo much.... nooooo!" under his breath.

Upon doing some research, it appears that Indonesia is actually pretty fucking hardcore. Particularly related to this discussion is the Indonesian Special Forces Counter-Terrorism police unit known as Detachment 88, which is easily one of the most hardcore national CT teams I've ever heard of before. Funded and trained by Australian and American special forces operatives and outfitted with top-of-the-line Western military gear, Detachment 88 is a take-no-prisoners vengeance-seeking police force whose primary objective is to hunt out terror cells, charge into their headquarters with a handful of frag grenades and a steady stream of bullets from their M4 assault rifles, and kill every fucking terrorist too stupid to put his hands up immediately. Sure, Detachment 88 catches some heat in the international community for their Death Wish-style vigilante murder rampage approach to police work, but it's like every time you turn around these dudes have cleared out some alleged terror cell with a hail of gunfire, killed some high-ranking member of whatever the Indonesian version of the Taliban is, and, in some cases, destroyed an entire city block in the process. Basically, Detachment 88's method of operation works like this these guys get intel on possible bad guys, go in there Navy SEAL style, and waste everyone they find except from one guy, who they capture and torture until he coughs up the name of his contact outside the terror cell. Then they go raid that place. Lather, rinse, repeat. Say what you want about the methods (it may surprise you to find that Amnesty International is not a fan), and I can't speak to the effectiveness of their results in anything resembling a definitive manner, but if nothing else I think we can all agree that this is pretty fucking badass.

Detachment 88

The hero of The Raid is Iko Uwais, an unbelievably-fast-punching Indonesian truck driver from Jakarta who has gone from sitting behind the wheel of a communications van to now standing tall as one of his country's most famous movie stars, mostly thanks to his ability to pummel the bejeezus out of hordes of mooks and extras and stuntmen with whatever objects happen to be laying around the movie sets at the time they unleash him. He's the 2005 National Champion in the Indonesian martial art, Penchak Silat, a pretty badass fighting style that combines all the best parts of Thai kickboxing, native Bali machete-fighting, and whatever it's called when you kick a dude in the balls and then break him in half by hip-tossing him off a table so he lands spine-first into a filing cabinet full of meth. Penchak Silat was allegedly founded by a woman who once saw a tiger fighting a monkey and then copied their combat styles and used it to beat the fucking shit out of a half-dozen drunk assholes who tried to rape her later that same day, which is a pretty awesome backstory, and while I'm not really a student of the world's various fighting styles I will admit that when you see this dude flip out and kick the crap out of like a hundred smackheads in a shitty apartment building you are absolutely on board with it.

Here's a clip from a different movie, where Iko saves his girlfriend by kicking the crap out of a dozen guys while dual-wielding lead pipes. I think this is based on a true story.


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