How the hell is he going to top that?!
The original movie – The Raid: Redemption – was a curious low budget Indonesian film with a Welsh director that came from out of nowhere in 2012 and thrilled fans of the martial arts and action genre with its unrelenting pace and bone crunching fight scenes.
Director Gareth Evans and lead Iko Uwais have returned to try and up the stakes with a new installment – The Raid 2: Berendal.
The Raid 2 is a much grander affair than the original. It runs for a nearly a full hour longer and whereas The Redemption was notable for being shot almost entirely in a single location and was practically free of any story-telling aside from the first and last five minutes, The Raid 2: Berendal is a sprawling crime epic in which our hero Rama goes undercover and befriends Uco, the son of a mob boss who has aspirations of heading his own crime syndicate one day.
It’s not exactly Shakespeare but that doesn’t stop Evans from investing a lot more time into the story of two rival crime families, one Indonesian and one Japanese, than I think anyone was expecting heading into this thing.
To be honest, although the story is simple in principle, I found it a little tricky to follow as there are a lot of different pawns in the game. There are mob bosses, crime lords, drug lords, second-in-commands and they all kind of look and act the same. The people you have no problems identifying are the excellently named Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man who let their utensils do the talking for them.
The storyline in The Raid 2: Berendal may be a mixed bag but there’s no faulting the action sequences which are sensational in both their visceral intensity and creativity. The scale is well and truly upped on the original and the addition of car chase sequences have broadened the range of mind-boggling stunt work and fight choreography that Iko Uwais delivers.
I love the unwritten rules of The Raid world. From what I observed, no one really uses guns unless its convenient for the plot. Even the lowliest criminal hangs out with about ten to twenty goons who Rama gets to brutalize with a flurry of fists, elbows and kicks. Even if you’re a random worker in a meth lab or an illegal pornography warehouse, you know a little bit of kung fu.
The highlights of the film are the boss fights. Hammer Girl, Baseball Bat Man, Prakoso and Andi are all given individual scenes to showcase their unique fighting abilites before they eventually cross paths with Rama. As with the original film, Evans proves himself to be a very astute action movie director. Although the action on the screen comes across thick and fast, it is always easy to follow what is going on and the fights always feel coherent and tactile. As with the first film, Evans has a flair for creating moments that draw audible gasps from the audience. It’s a terrifically enjoyable communal experience watching the film in a packed cinema and listening to people cringe, yell and cheer at the action. The final 45 minutes of the film is Evans and Uwais showcasing their talents at holding an audience’s attention and taking them on a rollercoaster ride.
Any single one of the fight or car chase sequences in The Raid 2 would likely be a highlight of a lesser movie. As it stands, this film has about seven different memorable action scenes, more than its fair share, that are all jaw-dropping in their brutality and creativity. The Raid 2 is a symphony of destruction and although it occasionally gets bogged down with the so-so crime drama narrative, once Iko Uwais gets going, you’ll be transfixed by what you see on the screen.
Note: There is a great interview with director Gareth Evans over at RogerEbert.com where he discusses the process of choreographing and shooting the fight scenes in The Raid 2.