The Raid 2 (2014) / Action-Thriller
aka The Raid 2: Berendal
MPAA Rated: R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language
Running Time: 150 min.
Cast: Iko Uwals, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Yayan Ruhian, Alex Abbad, Oka Antara, Roy Marten, Julie Estelle, Cok Simbara, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura
Director: Gareth Evans
Screenplay: Gareth Evans
Review published April 14, 2014
The Raid 2 is the sequel to 2011's international hit form Indonesia, The Raid: Redemption, and continues the adventures of its main cop character Rama (Uwals). You don't really need to see its predecessor to follow The Raid 2, but you would be missing out on one of the best pure action films since John Woo's Hong Kong days (a la Hard Boiled) if you don't.
Having written this script prior to making Redemption, Welsh writer-director Gareth Evans opens up the scope from its one-building plot of the first entry to a much more metropolitan environment, with a much higher budget for a larger cast for fights, lavish sets to destroy, and plenty of vehicular carnage to offset all of the brutal melee fighting. It's also a much more complex film in plot, featuring competing crime organizations all trying to claim a piece of the criminal underworld that runs rampant across Jakarta in nearly every facet of society. It's a film about the quest for power, shifting loyalty, and the maintenance of honor and respect in a world that increasingly places less value in either.
The film starts with the aftermath of Rama's survival against overwhelming odds as chronicled in The Raid, where his courage under fire makes him a likely target for retribution. Not wanting to put his family into jeopardy from shifty cops on the force who are compromised, an internal affairs officer puts him on the fatal casualties list, and in return gives him a covert mission to root out police ties to the mobs that run the city. To do this, Rama poses as a criminal in prison in order to cozy up to Uco (Putra, Macabre), the son of the country's biggest crime boss, Bangun (Pakusodewo, Java Heat). Their friendship earns Rama entry into the criminal organization as valued muscle, but things are about to get shaken up in a big way when an up-and-comer in the crime biz named Bejo (Abbad, Merantau)wants to take Bangun's empire down and take over as the main kingpin in town.
If The Raid films work at all, it's because Gareth Evans is truly a superb action director, and has compiled an impressive lineup of fantastic martial arts performers, especially the electrifying Iko Uwais, which he shoots with a seemingly ceaseless amount of inventiveness and blazing speed. In his attempt to make an action version of The Godfather (with a dash or two of Infernal Affairs) he's not quite there yet as a screenwriter, but it's actually not that bad as far as gangster dramas go. Where Evans may have stumbled is in finding the right balance between this amazing action the more cerebral dramatic power plays, as it becomes difficult to reconcile where the emphasis of the shifting tone should lie. Plus, it outstays its welcome through quite a few needless scenes and subplots that contribute little save to inject some action scenes featuring someone other than Rama, and the result is a bloated 2.5 hour opus that has just barely enough storyline to justify its expenditure on a plethora of frivolous things.
The Raid 2 will no doubt please viewers who have a special thirst for the ultraviolent, especially in close-quarters melees that feature lots of broken bones and flesh ripped mercilessly by a variety of steely weaponry. Unfortunately while The Raid: Redemption managed to deliver hefty doses of violence in abundance without being out-and-out abhorrent, the same can't be said for this follow-up, which often crosses the line from exciting action violence into the realm of nauseatingly and excessively graphic. While the choreography and action are a beauty to behold, once the knives and claw hammers land, it gets real ugly, real fast. If Redemption was all about "kill or be killed", The Raid 2 is all about "overkill or be overkilled".
©2014 Vince Leo