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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.67%
Average: 40%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 6.67%

2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Raid 2, The
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by Brett Gallman

"Sets the bar for action movies--again."
5 stars

In their purest form, action films are the cinema of escalation, and you have to admire any genre that thrives on people sacrificing life and limb just to amaze and impress its audience. A few years ago, Gareth Evans really threw down the gauntlet with "The Raid," a film so spectacularly orchestrated and jaw-dropping that it left you wondering if Evans could even top it with a follow-up. However, about halfway through "The Raid 2," you're just left in awe of how this sequel has left the original in the rearview and has become more concerned with topping itself.

The rare sequel that diverges sharply from its predecessor, "The Raid 2" hits the reset button almost immediately: shortly after the events of the first film, Rama's (Iko Uwais) criminal brother is executed by one of his own ruthless overlords. As one of the few survivors from the original raid left in any condition to take on a new mission, Rama is tapped by a (purportedly) clean superior to infiltrate one of the local criminal organizations and snuff out dirty cops and perhaps exact revenge for his brother.

On the surface, "The Raid 2" sounds about as simple as the first film, but Evans blows it up to epic proportions, both narratively and formally (gone is the claustrophobic, flat framing of the first film, here replaced by expansive scope photography). In order to ingratiate himself with one of the mob bosses, Rama gets tossed in jail and cozies up to the warlord's son, Uco (Arifin Putra). The entire ordeal feels like an extended prologue of sorts, with Rama enduring a rough-and-tumble welcome to prison (read: a shitload of guys try to beat the hell out of him in the bathroom) before earning Uco's trust (read: he thwarts a would-be shanking and starts a riot involving a shitload of guys beating the hell out of each other).

By that point, the structure has become obvious and isn't very dissimilar from the first film: there's a requisite amount of dialogue punctuated by the cast pummeling each other during outrageous fight sequences. Unlike the original film, however, "The Raid 2" breathes between the brawls because it's a different sort of beast, one that requires more meditative downtime to soak Rama (and audiences) into this seedy underbelly of underground porn barons and hitmen. Whereas the original film's slower parts still had characters avoiding machetes in crawlspaces, the sequel spins a more measured crime drama involving fathers and sons, ambition and loyalty, respect and honor. When Evans abruptly cuts from the prison riot to a title announcing the passage of two years, it's a jarring indicator that he's operating on a much larger scale this time around.

The main thread is a familiar but engaging story that stitches together fabric from films like "Infernal Affairs" and even "The Godfather." One sequence even recalls Coppola's Five Families montage, except the hits are being carried out by characters wielding baseball bats and hammers. The duo--simply credited as "Baseball Bat Man" (Very Tri Yulisman) and "Hammer Girl" (Julie Estelle)--look like they would have been right at home in one of the gangs from "The Warriors." The color and flavor provided by these and other characters (like Yayan Ruhian, who returns as an assassin who's like the goddamn Indonesian Jason Voorhees, just methodically stalking frantic motherfuckers before calmly gutting them with his machete) isn't afraid to embrace the pulpy aspects of this contemporary Greek tragedy that's rife with betrayal and revenge.

Evans's denser plot compellingly mirrors Rama's situation, as audiences slowly find themselves engulfed and drawn into this hellish underworld. Rama's frequent disappearances from the main plot (he spends a lot of time acting as a passive police mole) yield to an intense familial drama that can't be easily dismissed as mere white noise meant to shuttle audiences from one fight scene to the next.

While Rama never flirts with sympathizing with these devils (he remains an unyielding good guy throughout--his first call after being bailed out of prison is to his family), it's easy to see just how he could become so lost in this world. The strife between Uco (the overreaching Fredo of this clan) and his father (a more dignified but cold-blooded Tio Pakusadewo) is captivating enough to carry its own movie--hell, it practically is this movie for much of the running time, at least until Rama springs to action during an exhausting climax that spans a highway and a corporate den.

The climax's scale is emblematic of Evans's increased ambition for the film as a whole. Afforded a much larger budget with this sequel, he doesn't waste it. Sets are treated as playgrounds, where he's able to stage elaborate fights whose frames absolutely sprawl with mayhem, be it fisticuffs, shootouts, or swordfights. Each sequence features its own special flavor and works in concert with the plot; again, none of the exposition feels like an excuse to ignite the action, as the stakes are clearly established for each conflict. It's controlled chaos, which is no small feat, especially when he's orchestrating at least two dozen participants at some points.

If Evans had simply committed to making "The Raid 2" bigger and bloodier than its predecessor, it'd be laudable, but he goes the extra blood-spattered mile by consistently crafting new ways to make audiences both delight in and cringe at violence. "The Raid 2" is a savage piece of work intent on treating brutality like grace notes, with Evans serving as a deranged conductor looking for inventive ways to capture absolute carnage. Evans finds artistry in violence much like Fulci and Miike, and he's crafted something able to stand in that sort of company as it pertains to capturing the grace, horror, and beauty of sheer bloodshed. It's the type of film whose credits should feature a disclaimer insisting that none of the cast and crew were harmed during its making--only I'm pretty sure it couldn't truthfully feature one because I'm convinced half of its cast must be dead.

At the center of it all stands Kuwais, a blood-soaked anchor in a sea of chaos. Even as he sometimes gets lost in the labyrinthine proceedings of "The Raid 2," he's the scrappy heart of this saga. Speaking of guys who found a perverse delight in violence, Kuwais is essentially Bruce Campbell to Evans's Sam Raimi, a plucky guy forced to endure his director's intense fits of insanely choreographed mayhem. When "The Raid 2" brusquely ends on a cliffhanging note, there are many reasons you can't wait for "The Raid 3." One is to see just how in the hell Evans manages to top this; the other is to see just how in the hell Rama is going to brawl his way out of yet another precarious situation.

In 2012, I compared the leanness of the original film to that of an 8-bit video game, and I love that Evans didn't opt to just make his sequel a beefier, 16-bit version of the same theme. For him, topping "The Raid 2" wasn't a matter of just soaring straight over it; instead, he hovered around it, pecked out its guts, and transplanted them into a different sort of experience--albeit one that still has the capability to completely kick your jaw onto the floor. I have no idea how Evans intends to escalate from here, but I have little doubt that he will.

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originally posted: 04/14/14 13:09:51
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 SXSW Film Festival For more in the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/13/15 Terror Nowhere near as tight as the first. Bad editing too. 1 stars
4/14/14 mr.mike Fans of extreme violence Martial Arts must see it. 4 stars
4/13/14 Darkstar One of the best and bloodiest action movies I've ever seen. 5 stars
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  28-Mar-2014 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jul-2014


  DVD: 08-Jul-2014

Directed by
  Gareth Evans

Written by
  Gareth Evans

  Iko Uwais
  Yayan Ruhian
  Arifin Putra
  Oka Antara
  Tio Pakusadewo
  Alex Abbad

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