More than 10 years after its release, ultraviolent Indonesian action film The Raid is getting a Western remake courtesy of Netflix. But this time, instead of being set in a Jakarta high-rise, the movie will take place in Kensington.
While the announcement of a new film highlighting a Philly neighborhood would normally be met with excitement, some activists and city officials are concerned the remake might portray Kensington in a negative light.
Gareth Evans directed the original 2011 martial arts action film, a plot-light, fight-heavy movie that sees a SWAT team storm a high-rise controlled by a powerful drug lord. Floor by floor, the team — led by hero Rama, played by Iko Uwais — fights bad guy after bad guy, reminiscent of beat-em-up video games of the 1990s.
The sleek plot and masterfully choreographed fights showcasing Indonesian martial art Pencak silat made the film an international success and led to a sequel, The Raid: Redemption. Both films became cult classics, and there had been talk of an American remake as far back as 2011.
Netflix announced the remake on Monday. Deadline reported that Patrick Hughes, director of The Expendables 3, will helm the film, with blockbuster action director Michael Bay producing alongside XYZ Films. A script has yet to be written, Deadline reported.
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According to Deadline, the remake is set in “Philadelphia’s drug-infested ‘Badlands,’ where an elite undercover DEA task force climbs a ladder of cartel informants to catch an elusive kingpin.”
Without even a trailer or a script to dissect, fans of the original film already have a few problems with the idea.
Many don’t see a need to remake a cult classic and are afraid the American treatment will make the film worse. Bay’s involvement brings worries that the intricate fight choreography will be replaced with explosions, a Bay trademark.
Others worry that exaggerating the violence of the Kensington area and positioning DEA agents as the heroes in a community that has been plagued by opioid overdoses and deaths would do even more harm.
Plus … there are no high-rise apartment buildings in Kensington.
Netflix representatives did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment. As of Tuesday, the Greater Philadelphia Film Office had not been aware of the film and its production.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said the hope is that the film will present Kensington and Philadelphia accurately, not sensationalizing the crime, drugs, and violence the neighborhood can endure.
“The Kensington community is strong and resilient. While we hope this film would portray the true spirit of this community and its people, we condemn exploiting the story of a neighborhood that has suffered the impact of the opioid crisis and overcome so many challenges over the decades just for profit,” a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said in a statement.
There were 2,000 Indonesians living in Philadelphia as of 2019, according to Pew Research Center. Members of the Indonesian community put the number between 7,000 and 8,000.
Indah Nuritasari, who immigrated from Indonesia 21 years ago and worked for years in Kensington at Finanta, a nonprofit lending institution, was familiar with the original The Raid. She remembers thinking it was “low budget” and “not very well-written,” and sees the remake serving only to harm Kensington, despite a community that is “thriving.”
“I think the moviemaker wants to make some money, of course,” said Nuritasari. “Commercially, I’m sure it will do not too bad. But it doesn’t help with the reality that many people in Kensington are working hard to improve the lives of the communities in Kensington.”
“That kind of movie can be very destructive to the work that many people are doing,” she added.