Movie Review: The Raid 2

And so begins a mini-landslide of impossibly exciting movie releases.

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Starring:
Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Arifin Putra
Director:
Gareth Evans (Merantau, The Raid)
Rating: R18+
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The limited release of The Raid 2 (full name The Raid 2: Berandal) in Australia and indeed around the world suggests that not enough people saw the first The Raid movie. That’s perfectly understandable; after all it’s an Indonesian language film without any instantly recognisable Hollywood stars. The only probable way you’d have heard about it is if a friend recommended it to you. So if this is the first you’re hearing of it, please, friend, go see that film. If you like action movies for their action sequences above all else, you will be hard pressed to find a better film in recent memory than The Raid. That is the highest and most honest praise I can send its way. It is a brutal, stylishly framed triumph and several Hollywood blockbusters are already attempting to emulate its approach.

Now that I’ve said this, go track down the movie and watch it. When you’re done, come back here and read on.


Seen it? Good. The Raid 2 is a film that attempts to one-up its predecessor in every way possible. It’s bolder, longer, even more stylish and takes place on a much wider scale, which is what one might expect from a modern action movie sequel. Gareth Evans, the same Welsh director who took charge of the first film, is behind the lens again here, meaning the Die Hard-inspired single building setting that defined The Raid is nowhere to be found the second time around. Evans has nothing to prove; he knows what he has already achieved and wisely resists the temptation to cover old ground. This story picks up a mere two hours after the first one ended, with our very capable martial artist protagonist Rama (the effective Iko Uwais) picked up straight away by an agent who is keen to use him to flush out further police corruption and mobsters in Jakarta. As this is probably the only way Rama’s family will be guaranteed safety, he goes along with the plan.

Rather than cover about a day’s worth of events, Berandal instead takes place over a few years of Rama’s life, and at almost 50 minutes longer than the first Raid you really feel the increased scale on which it operates, for better or worse. Rama spends the first twenty minutes (and, more importantly, the first two fight scenes) in prison trying to earn the trust of a big-time mobster’s spoiled son, but aside from serving as a framing device for those fights the prison scenes don’t really achieve anything that a simple dialogue exchange couldn’t have done in a more time effective manner. That isn’t the only superfluous part of the movie – there are one or two other scenes and sub-plots (some involving the actor who played Mad Dog in the first movie) that could quite easily have been cut out in the name of a more focused film.

Yet that is where my criticism of The Raid 2 ends. After Rama gets out of prison and into the undercover role he desires, it’s astounding at how well the film pulls off what is essentially The Departed in Indonesian, with a few cool surprises thrown in. Family loyalties and double-crosses and corruption and Japanese people are all added onto the basic Evans recipe of stunning action sequence after stunning action sequence. One reason the narrative works is that the Welshman is able to replicate the same kind of claustrophobic tension leading up to a big fight scene that Rama’s first vertical adventure portrayed so very well, only this time he does so in slums, muddy courtyards, restaurants, nightclubs and kitchens. Slow motion, great use of music and beautifully framed shots all add up to some spectacular heart-in-mouth moments, even when you know exactly what’s coming. Another reason is the powder keg performance of Arifin Putra as the aforementioned mobster leader’s son, Uco. Putra just makes the character so hateable, but leaves enough room for sympathy to make sure he’s the one you’re watching whenever Rama isn’t hurting people.

And then there’s the action itself. Iko Uwais himself did much of the hand-to-hand choreography for the film and it’s clear he is just as talented at engineering a melee as he is at executing its strokes. It would be easier for me to list which fight scenes in The Raid 2 aren’t highlights (hint: the answer is none of them), but special mention has to go to a mud fracas, an epic kitchen showdown and any scene involving the characters known only as Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man. If it sounds like those two should be cartoon characters, they pretty much are, but these two don’t need back stories – they’re just in the movie to cause as much bloody carnage as they can and that they most definitely do. But I expected great martial arts sequences from Berandal – What I didn’t expect was one of the single best car chase scenes I’ve seen on a screen in at least a decade. Some of the shots Evans pulls off in said scene are almost Alfonso Cuaron-esque.

The Raid 2: Berandal is a movie with flaws, but if you like your action you aren’t likely to remember too many of them after you leave the cinema. The film is arguably just as good as its much more focused predecessor and that is an astounding achievement. The Raid 3, the final instalment in Evans‘ refreshing trilogy, has already been confirmed – and so, ladies and gentlemen, you’d best fasten your seat belts.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Genre-leading action sequences, brilliantly shot, tense, doesn’t try to copy the first film
Bad:
A few too many unnecessary scenes and plot threads
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4.5 VsI N C R E D I B L E

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