The Raid 2 Review [Sundance 2014]
In 2011, a small Indonesian action movie directed and written by a guy from Wales became an overnight cult classic. The Raid: Redemption was a pure adrenaline injection of a film, a constant assault of blistering fight choreography and pin-point editing. It was 100 minutes of pure, unadultered brutality with more wince-inducing beatings than any movie in living memory. It was, in short, completely badass.
Now, Gareth Evans and his Indonesian crew are back (complete with a much-improved budget) to deliver The Raid 2. Not only does this sequel more than live up to its predecessor, but its epic scope and newfound sense of humour manage to surpass the original. For fans of Evans’ first effort, this is the stuff of dreams.
Once more, the story follows Rama (Iko Uwais) and unfortunately, he continues to not have a very good time of it. Mere hours after the chronological ending of the first film, he is taken in by a police chief and all but forced to go undercover, infiltrating a crime family with the ultimate goal of toppling Jakarta’s most corrupt officials. From this simple premise we are gifted a wealth of characters and storyline.
The Raid 2 weighs in at around two and a half hours, but its epic tale of crime syndicates and betrayal more than justifies such an indulgent runtime. The sprawling scale of the story brings to mind Infernal Affairs – and to an extent even The Godfather – and it is no mean feat that the plot remains completely coherent throughout. And where Redemption scrimped on character development, The Raid 2 has it in buckets. For those concerned by the idea of so much dialogue in a Raid film, there’s no cause for concern as more often than not the character in question will be slitting a set of throats as he explains his latest plot. There’s never a dull moment here, just the calm before the next storm.
While Rama was essentially a blank slate in the first film, here he is genuinely rounded character complete with a wavering set of loyalties and a touching dedication to his family. But this is more than just Rama’s story. In fact, the leading man is left completely out of the plot for massive chunks of the movie, highlighting the diverse brilliance of The Raid 2’s supporting cast.
In particular, Arifin Putra’s headstrong heir to a crime empire ends up with almost as much screen time as Uwais, showcasing some of the most natural on screen charisma I have seen in a long time and furthering the case that this is less a one man show and more a glorious ensemble piece.
And that’s before we even get on to the fight scenes. Anything The Raid can do, the sequel can do better, and with the removal of budgetary constraints Evans has really let his vision run wild. The set-piece fight sequences (and there are many) are quite frankly, incredible. Every movement is so intricate, every strike more brutal than the last, each pitched battle reaching new levels of jaw-dropping. Every single one of these fights is utterly unique and memorable, a particular favourite being a blood and mud-soaked prison riot which sees the camera dancing among dozens of individual fistfights. And that’s really what The Raid 2 is. With its fleet-footed precision and its unparalleled skill, it’s like a beautifully choreographed ballet.
Evans has done a phenomenal job putting the film together. A self-confessed control-freak, his frenetically precise style of editing looks set to be aped for years to come. The cinematography is equally brilliant as we are no longer confined to a set of dank hallways, but are instead treated to countless breathtaking vistas and some wonderful top-down shots of the action. And just when you thought there couldn’t be any more, The Raid 2 boasts one of the most ridiculously brilliant car chases to ever be dedicated to celluloid. Evans has essentially reinvented the modern action film in his own image and his output is truly incomparable.
It would be very easy to merely wax the lyrical about every individually brilliant aspect of The Raid 2, but reading about what happens would spoil half the fun. Really, it’s just something you need to see. It’s a borderline transcendent experience in badassery, alternating between an engaging plot and the most stunning fight scenes ever screened in a cinema. As ridiculous as it is brutally brilliant, The Raid 2 is the greatest action film ever made.
Bigger, bolder, funnier and smarter, The Raid 2 is everything that fans of the original film could have ever hoped for.