Should I Watch..? 'The Raid 2'
What's the big deal?
The Raid 2 (also known as The Raid 2: Berandal) is a martial-arts action film released in 2014 and is the sequel to the 2011 release The Raid. Like the first film, The Raid 2 was directed by Gareth Evans and once again shows off the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat. The film begins within a few hours after the end of the first film and follows rookie police officer Rama going deep undercover within a crime family's organisation in order to help bring down corruption within the police force. The film stars Iko Uwais who reprises his role from the first film, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad and Julie Estelle. The film became another box office success for Evans and has helped further his reputation as one of the best action directors currently working. Plans for a third film, however, appear to be on hiatus as director Evans has moved on to other projects.
What's it about?
Within a few hours of surviving the events of the first film, police officer Rama is cornered by honest cop Bunawar who is heading up a covert operation to root out corruption in the police. Thanks to Rama's efforts, the police have attracted the attention of crime boss Bangun who has a number of corrupt officials on his payroll. In order to protect his family from reprisals, Rama must go undercover in Bangun's organisation to identify those officials - a task Rama reluctantly accepts.
Adapting the false identity of Yuda, Rama is thrown in prison alongside Bangun's ambitious son Uco in an attempt to get closer to him. The plan works and Uco brings Rama with him to work in his father's criminal empire. But things quickly begin to spiral out of control - a feud with Japanese crime boss Hideaki Goto spills over into open warfare while Uco's lust for power threatens to expose Rama to unparalleled danger...
Trailer (contains some gore)
Rama / Yuda
Cecep Arif Rahman
The Assassin, Bejo's henchman
Alicia aka "Hammer Girl"
Very Tri Yulisman
Baseball Bat Man
Release Date (UK)
11th April, 2014
Action, Crime, Thriller
What's to like?
Fans of the first film will be eager to check out this follow-up, which delivers once again on the fisticuffs. The Raid 2 is much longer and more grandiose than the first film, spending a while explaining the story for anyone who missed the first film before exploding into violence. And it is extremely violent - every punch and kick feels as if Evans is reaching out through the screen and physically shaking us in our seats, thanks to some imaginative and interesting cinematography. I especially enjoyed the car chase where the camera floats around one car that has a fight going on before drifting out of an open window onto the road where a second car is in pursuit. It's the little things that you might not notice at first that makes the action truly incredible.
I was also pleased to note that Evans had paid attention to criticism of the first film's simplistic plot and lack of characterisation. Uwais' performance as Rama is much better and the supporting cast also provide the film with other memorable characters from the limping gangster Bejo to Hammer Girl, a character with a not-so-subtle nod towards Tarantino's Kill Bill. The film's increased running time allows Evans the luxury of more effective story-telling and even more places for people to get shot, stabbed, slashed and generally ripped to pieces.
- The epic kitchen battle took 6 weeks to plan, 8 days to shoot and contains 195 shots. It's also director Evans' favourite scene in the film.
- Julie Estelle had no previous experience of any martial-arts before shooting began. She was trained over six months by fellow cast member Yayan Ruhian who plays the machete-wielding killer Prakoso.
- The Indonesian version was released with no cuts to the film for any of the extremely violent and bloody scenes in the film. However, it did remove the scenes featuring the topless porn actress due to the country's obscenity laws. So mutilation and extreme violence is OK but a pair of nipples...
What's not to like?
If anything, The Raid 2 kinda spoils the viewer with its blistering orgy of destruction. At times, it does get a bit much and even veteran action viewers will wince at some of the stuff seen here. Trust me, I like my action as much as the next guy but do we really have to see how many different ways there are of killing someone with a claw hammer?
The ending felt a little predictable as well as feeling a bit of an anti-climax, as though Evans was holding something back for a possible third film - one which we are sadly unlikely to see. The other thing is that it lacks the surprise of the first film - watching The Raid, I wasn't really prepared for just how well it kicked ass. While this film still managed to achieve some brilliant and memorable scenes, I wasn't as blown away the second time around. Yes, Evans has plenty of tricks up his sleeve and brings you as close to the action as you could wish (sometimes a little too close). The whole thing reminded me of the climatic battle between The Bride and The Crazy 88 at the end of the first Kill Bill - lots of excessive violence, blood running everywhere and almost relying on the action to tell the story.
Should I watch it?
Action lovers, and martial-arts fans especially, will delight in the cartoony levels of carnage on display in this lightning sequel. With everything turned up to eleven, the film is an improvement in every way on the first film and will satisfy even the most jaded of genre fans. For everyday cinema goers, the film's extreme nature might put some viewers off. While it isn't as repugnant as some violent action films, the quality of the action will be more than enough to entertain.
Great For: action fans of all types, over 18s, Gareth Evans' future prospects
Not So Great For: family viewing, anyone expecting The Sound Of Music, DIY enthusiasts
What else should I watch?
While The Raid 2 steps up its game considerably, it still doesn't reach the same levels of stomach-churning ultra-violence as something like Ichi The Killer. Takashi Miike's 2001 adaptation of the original manga series is arguably one of the most brutal action films of all time, remaining banned in several countries at the time of writing, and is my personal threshold for extreme cinematic violence. More palatable efforts include the likes of Ang Lee's ground-breaking Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang Yimou's stunning House Of Flying Daggers or Ip Man, a biographical account of the grandmaster who tutored Bruce Lee.
Of course, the film closest to this would be the original. The Raid is much smaller in scale, taking place mostly within a single tower block. There is also much more gun usage than seen in the second film, feeling like John Woo directing a rebooted Die Hard. It does lack the story-telling and characterisation, rushing past in a blur of action scenes and explosions. But anyone looking for something a little different could do worse.
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© 2016 Benjamin Cox