Words by Jack Spillane
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura
Running Time: 150 minutes
Plot: Approximately two hours after the first film ends, Rama (Uwais) goes undercover and infiltrates the ranks of a ruthless Jakarta crime syndicate in order to protect his family and to uncover the corruption in his own police force.
The Raid was one of those astonishingly good, game-changing films that do not come around very often. With a simple premise (a Raid team get caught in a high rise block full of criminals) and outstanding fight choreography, the film was a surprise hit for Welsh director Gareth Evans and his Indonesian cast. So with the much anticipated sequel it’s surprising again to see Evans take the film in a massively different direction and not just move the action to another confined space with another Raid team. Instead, the film opens up to include a full crime story with feuding Indonesian and Japanese families, tense undercover police work, and of course bone-crunchingly brutal fight scenes.
Gareth Evans should be commended for attempting to expand The Raid universe outside of the halls of a high rise tower block, but audiences are not clamouring for a crime epic plot that spans two and a half hours. What audiences want to see are crazy fight scenes, which the sequel has in abundance, but it takes far too long to get to them. The plot sees protagonist Ramago undercover to bring down corrupt police officers and the criminal Bangun family, who are running Jakarta with Japanesefamily the Gotos, who are in turn threatened by rising gangster Bejo (Abbad) who has ties to Rama’s brother from the first film…it’s a little convoluted. However, it is an interesting story and one that does eventually pay off in the third act. There are definite lulls in excitement as Evans attempts to get all the pieces in place for the riveting finale, which alone make the film worth seeing.
Once all the plotting and set-up is out of the way, The Raid 2 kicks into overdrive. Topping the fight scenes from the first film seems like a tough task, but Evans might just have done it. With an expanded running time and huge cast of characters, there is an incredible variety of fights that are absolutely jaw dropping. The choreography and technical skill of these actors is stunning, and scene after scene they invent new ways to beat the crap out of each other. Combined with Evans’ kinetic direction, it is truly unlike anything you will ever see. With such a high amount of fighting comes an extremely high amount of violence and make no bones about it, this is probably the most violent film you will see for a while. Baseball bats, hammers, shotguns: whichever object is near will be used to inflict pain, and the film is a glorious bloodbath of inventive violence.
Along with director Evans, Iko Uwais once again shows why he is an action talent to watch. He is an exceptional performer and adept actor who handles the increased dramatic levity well. He is joined by an interesting array of characters including petulant Bangun family heir Uco; handicapped snake Bejo and his trio of assassins; and homeless hit man Prakoso. It’s a good cast of characters that help maintain the hefty plot’s momentum, but do unfortunately take focus away from the film’s star Rama. Evans largely gets all the elements to work as he lets his cast do what they do best: perform exhilarating action scenes.
Despite the lengthy plot, The Raid 2 is a fantastic action/crime film. For all the build-up in the first half, which can feel slow (bar a couple of action scenes), the second half more than makes up for the viewer’s potential decline in interest. The same incredible fight choreography and stunt work from the first film notched up to the next level makes for an exhilarating ride. It was an admirable risk taken by Evans to flip the premise of the original on its head, but it has not completely paid off. It is reminiscent of video games Batman: Arkham City and Portal 2, both sequels to hugely popular games that are outstanding in their own right, but feel flabbier and less focused than their predecessors. If the script were tighter and the plot pieces put together with more fluidity then this would be an all-time classic, but as it is, it’s just a worthy sequel to a better original.
Jack is currently a third year English and Film student who spends far too much time watching movies and television. When he’s not watching them, he’s writing about them.