Director: Gareth Evans (The Raid, V/H/S 2)
Starring: Iko Uwais, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Yaya Ruhain, Arifin Putra
Run-time: 150 minutes
IN SHORT: The Raid 2 is a near-perfect martial arts picture that transcends the genre and it's about to become your new favourite film and the envy of every action movie director around the world.
It's almost a definitive fact that sequels are never better than the original movie. With a sequel comes expectation and in this case, a lot more financial responsibility. Made on a tiny budget, in a country not renowned for its cinema, The Raid stunned action movie enthusiasts and put Welsh director Gareth Evans and pencak silat martial artist, Iko Uwais, on the global map. Recreating the magic of your first film can be a daunting, seemingly-impossible task for inexperienced film-makers but Evans isn't your typical one-hit wonder director. The Raid 2 is an ostentatiously ambitious sequel that manages to hit harder, faster and far bloodier than it's predecessor and in the confines of a richer story.
The Raid saw Rama (Iko Uwais) rip down an entire building of seasoned thugs and drug dealers. This was just the beginning as the wall of men killed in that building are no more than a cog in a much larger, hierarchical operation that includes corrupt cops and affluent politicians. In order to expose suspected police corruption, Rama must infiltrate the crime syndicates and ingratiate himself into the Indonesian criminal underworld. By rubbing shoulders with the kingpins and criminals oppressing the country, Rama can bring them down from the inside. But these syndicates are supremely organised and when you cut off one head, another two grow back instantly...
|Blood and gore is kept to a maximum!|
The Raid 2 is a remarkably made martial arts film filled with crowd-pleasing moments of pure adrenaline. Simultaneously brutal and elegant, the frantic fight choreography is both hypnotic and difficult to watch due to the extreme gore. The immersion of the fight scenes is helped by the fact that every actor is a professionally trained martial artist. Gareth Evans isn't in the business of miming and play-fighting; he lets Iko Uwais and co do what they do best, whilst keeping his camera moving with impressive fluidity. The editing and sound design is a key factor in making the fight scenes so viscerally enthralling as bones crunch and flesh tears with a nauseous level of realism.
And the scale of the fight scenes is much larger than the first movie as Evans experiments more with locations and multiple cameras. Whereas a lot of The Raid is confined to narrow corridors, The Raid 2 is limitless as the violence spills out onto the streets of Indonesia. Perhaps the most impressive scene is a free-for-all inside a rain-drenched, muddy prison yard as Rama fights fellow inmates with crudely constructed shanks and a broom. This grueling scene is shot in only a few long takes as Evans' kinetic camerawork moves around the yard, swooping in and out of the action from various viewpoints. Or perhaps the exhilarating car-chase scene that see's Rama fight four men at close quarters, whilst trying to dodge the bullets being sprayed by a pursuing motorbike.
|Why use a gun when you've got a broom stick?|
Critics praised The Raid for its achievements as an action film but responded negatively to the thinly plotted narrative. This time round, Evans has crafted a more expansive story, one that feels intrinsic to the film and transcends the action movie genre. The filmic world of The Raid 2 feels more abundantly realised as new, fully-written characters like Uco, Bejo and a devastating villain known quite simply as 'Hammer Girl' take centre stage. Furthermore, Evans breaks up the ultra-violence with some brilliantly timed moments of black comedy that almost mock the sheer absurdity of the events surrounding Rama.
At 150 minutes long, The Raid 2 is one of those rare movies that feels a lot shorter than it truly is. In fact, the only major criticism I have is that certain important plot-points feel under-explained and that occasionally you'll find yourself wanting to take a breather so you can catch up! Overall though, if The Raid was Gareth Evans' introduction to cinema, The Raid 2 is his defiant message that he's here to stay as he effortlessly pushes the envelope. The Raid 2 is a near-perfect martial arts picture that transcends the genre and it's about to become your new favourite film and the envy of every action movie director around the world.