How do you follow an action film as tight and tense and damn near perfect as The Raid? The answer, it seems, is to make a film as broad, intricate and damn near perfect as The Raid: Berandal, aka The Raid 2. Obviously the first point to consider is whether Gareth Huw Evans’s second feature matches up to the bone-crunching mayhem of the first, and it does – with gore to spare. But the second point is more crucial: does it hold up as a stand-alone movie in its own right? The answer to that is a resounding yes too; leaving behind the Carpenter-esque confined spaces of the original, Evans’s sequel heads out into the streets of Jakarta, bringing in so many new and fascinating characters that it’s hardly noticeable when the film’s nominal hero Rama, played by a much more confident Iko Uwais, is absent from the screen (which he is for surprisingly long patches).
The first few moments suggest that the film might be hard work, since it carries on almost immediately in the wake of its predecessor. Some familiarity with the first is necessary here to figure out what’s going on, but a whole new plot soon emerges. Recruited by internal affairs, Rama is given a new identity and sent to prison, where he is ordered to infiltrate the world of inmate Uco, son of gang lord Bangun. Rama’s mission is to root out the corrupt cops who are keeping the Bangun gang in business, but it soon becomes clear that Uco is a loose cannon, intent on deposing his father and declaring war on their Japanese rivals. Unable to risk blowing his cover, for fear of putting his wife and child at risk, Rama finds himself caught in the middle of an impending turf war.
With a running time of 148 minutes The Raid 2 seems an unlikely epic, and yet it never overextends itself. Editing the movie himself, Evans keeps a tight rein on all his various strands, and the film is at its best when juggling several characters, notably towards the last quarter when tensions between the rival factions begin to escalate. But this would be nothing if there were no characters to invest in, and Evans has populated his murky world with a whole spectrum of heroes and scumbags, from the virtuous Rama to the Machiavellian crime boss Bejo with his hammer and baseball bat-wielding protégées. Add to this some extraordinary locations – all of which lend themselves organically to the choreography of the fight scenes – you have that rarest of things: an action movie with real and present danger, not the Punch and Judy show of the average CG blockbuster.
The wince-inducing sound mix does quite a lot of the work, but The Raid 2 is strong meat nevertheless, and this Sundance cut is certainly going to cause a few problems with the ratings boards both in the US and the UK. Fortunately, there’s more than just blood and guts to this spectacularly visceral film, and it’s to Evans’s credit that he has made a turf-war thriller that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of Asian crime stories, from Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage films to practically everything from South Korea. The Sundance audience gave it a standing ovation and it deserved it. Now bring on Part Three.
tysmuse Posted on Wednesday January 22, 2014, 21:24
Great write-up on a movie for which I am incredibly excited. Even more promisingly, this seems to be in line with (I think) all of the 'buzz' that's coming out of Sundance about The Raid 2.
doug64 Posted on Friday February 28, 2014, 19:42
Am I the only person in the world who doesn't think The Raid is all that great? I realise you have to find dark corners to whisper it in around these parts but I am saying it anyway!! Don't get me wrong, it is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination and I am looking forward to the second one. Maybe it is just a case of everyone hyped it up or maybe because I am a miserable old fart.
Crazel Posted on Tuesday March 4, 2014, 21:20
Doug64 I totally agreed with you
Crazel Posted on Tuesday March 4, 2014, 21:21
You are a miserable old fart!
doug64 Posted on Saturday March 8, 2014, 22:47
Ha ha, buuuurn! I am going to go a step further and say Dredd was a better film.