Russian Raid [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (15th April 2021).
The Film

Russian Spetsnaz operative turned soldier of fortune Nikita (Dragon Blade's Ivan Kotik) is haunted by the murder of his father by his shady business partner Koneev, a man subsequently responsible for an ambush in Africa that killed Nikita's team. His thirst for revenge has alienated him from the grandfather who raised him and tried to instill in him the value of protecting his home and the people who should matter in his life in favor of globe-hopping for hired kills. Returning to Russia, he is hired by slick businessman Sergey to initiate a literal "hostile takeover" of a former munitions factory that is actually a front for arms dealers (Sergey is even bringing in a notary to witness the signing over of control). Since the guards have had their weapons confiscated, Sergey has no problem going against Nikita's advice and hiring a "ragtag gang of toughs" lead by Stanislas (kickboxer Vladimir Mineev) who immediately challengers Nikita for control rather than other highly-trained former operatives. The local police are turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the operation so long as they do not attract attention, but the team is unprepared for a heavily-guarded secret meeting among the board, a senior security officer with a passion for medieval weaponry, a temp secretary (Text's Sofya Ozerova) with intrigues of her own, an inexperienced but principled cop (Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles' Nikita Kologrivyy), and the presence on the board of one of his father's betrayers, linking the arms operation to his greatest enemy who has all of the military firepower of Russia at his disposal to put down the takeover.

Although the title of the film is literally Russian Raid a direct translation of the Russian title and the plot bears some surface resemblance to the Gareth Evans Indonesia-lensed action film The Raid, the film is not a slavish imitation but actually a rather sloppy Hollywood calling card by not-ready-for-prime-time first time feature director Denis Kryuchkov. It is hard to tell just how plausible the plot of forcible physical hostile takeovers in Russia really is given the somewhat lawless portrait of Russia in other films following the economic crash of the late nineties; but the plot feels no so much stripped-down as never fully developed beyond a list of eighties action film tropes. Characterization is flat, with the only thing really distinguishing Kotik's character from the others being his odd shadowboxing moves that at first seem laughable until we get brief flashbacks that show Nikita as a child being taught traditional folk dancing by his grandfather, and the female lead is only distinguished from the other two female characters by being blonde and slender. The most glaring issue, however, is that in spite of the presence in the cast of Russian mixed martial artists and seasoned stuntmen, they are all let down by Kryuchkov's uninspired coverage of the fight scenes in listless long takes and long shots with blaring techno music and Russian rap slathered on top to give the impression of rhythm where there is none with the only zippy editing and jerky camera moves coming during one-on-one fights, and the CGI explosions only look good compared to the various bullet hits which look more like digital paintball spatter. The film is hardly an impressive portfolio; then again, look what happened when Hollywood tripped over itself to import Timur Bekmambetov based on Night Watch and Day Watch (we ended up with the dire Wanted and Ben-Hur).
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Video

Released theatrically in Russia, but apparently direct to digital and physical media virtually everywhere else Well Go USA might have released it to limited screens in some large cities before its Blu-ray edition Russian Raid looks spectacular on Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen Blu-ray in terms of the sharpness and clarity original HD photography. In contrast to the usual derivative ugly orange-teal Hollywood grading, the exteriors look naturalistic while the interiors generally look a little flat and actually could have used more aggressive coloring and contrast, but it is likely true to the intended look.
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Audio

The sole audio track is a Russian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that gets the directional effects right for gunfire and explosions while the impacts of the hand-to-hand combat range from "punchy" to muffled, and the music is just loud and inorganic, but this also appears to have been a choice to give the action more aggression than the coverage through photography and editing. The English subtitles are optional and reveal a tendency to only give names to secondary characters only moments before killing them off.
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Extras

There are absolutely no extras.
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Overall

Although Russian Raid bears some surface resemblance to the Gareth Evans' The Raid, the film is not a slavish imitation but actually a rather sloppy Hollywood calling card by not-ready-for-prime-time first time feature director.

 


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