The Cinema Behind Star Wars: The Raid: Redemption

See how the martial arts film influenced J.J. Abrams' fierce gang of ruffians. Tell that to Kanjiklub!

The Raid: Redemption is a 2011 martial arts film set in Indonesia and directed by the Welsh-born director Gareth Evans. It’s a movie whose story is based in simplicity in order to best show off the stunning fight choreography by Yayan Ruhian. A SWAT team is tasked with clearing out a building full of gangsters, which seems to be an impossible task since virtually every tenant stands with the evil mob boss.

The film was a hit with critics (save Roger Ebert) who praised it for elevating the martial arts genre into something much more cinematic while still keeping all of the breathless action and fun. Yes, it’s brutal, but there’s a heart to it.

Return of the Jedi - Luke and Leia on Endor

One of the major themes in the film is something that Star Wars is known for: secret siblings. Through the course of the film, we learn that one of the gangster’s right hand men is the elder brother of one of our SWAT team members. The two of them have very pointed and poignant conversations about their relationship between each other and the nature of good and evil before having to work together to both get through the film alive.


But what does this have to do with Star Wars? Well, it’s definitely a film that influenced The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, as he told Peter Sciretta at /Film. “I was just a fan [of The Raid: Redemption.] It was an opportunity. I knew we needed people for this one sequence that would be particularly fun to see a group of people working together. [An] opportunity arose for this and I thought ‘God, I wonder if the dudes from The Raid would be available?’ And to my amazement, they were willing, and they were incredible. They showed up and did a terrific job.”

The Force Awakens - Tasu Leech

Indeed, they did do a terrific job of bringing Kanjiklub to life aboard Han Solo’s ship, The Erevana. Tasu Leech, the leader of the gang, was played by Yayan Ruihan who played “Mad Dog” in The Raid: Redemption and served as the action choreographer.

Kanjiklub aboard the Eravana

Iko Uwais, who played the young SWAT team member, Rama, was the shady Razoo Qin-Fee in The Force Awakens (front right).

A third member from the Raid franchise, Cecep Arif Rahman, who played “The Assassin” in The Raid 2, joined the others to play Crokind Shand, a third member of the Kanjiklub gang (middle with eye patch).

Since the release of The Force Awakens, Kanjiklub has become a favorite among fans, and it’s the influence of cinema that made them so instantly iconic. “Tell that to Kanjiklub” is one of the most quoted lines of the movie, and these actors from The Raid brought that gang to life brilliantly.

The Raid: Redemption is rated R by the MPAA for strong, brutal violence throughout and language. As a film, it’s a non-stop action ride with a pacing not dissimilar to The Force Awakens. It just moves. For fans of martial arts cinema, it’s a must-see. For anyone else who wants to see what Tasu Leech can do when he’s not being eaten by a rathtar, this is a stunning film that showcases his talent in the most hard-hitting ways. For cinema buffs, it’s definitely a film that needs to be watched as it’s an introduction into the modern era of martial arts films, and it’s already had a heavy influence on western cinema, drawing frequent inspirational comparisons to the underrated 2012 film Dredd.

Availability: The Raid: Redemption is widely available on DVD and Blu-ray, and is available for a modest rental fee from most online streaming services.


Bryan Young is an author, a filmmakerjournalist, and the editor in chief of BigShinyRobot.comHe’s also the co-host of the Star Wars podcast, Full of Sith.