Friday, April 11, 2014

Raid 2, The (2014)

Director: Gareth Evans
Notable Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Cecep Arif Rahman, Very Tri Yulisman, Yayan Ruhian

There was a simplicity to the first The Raid film that worked. In a sort of grindhouse-esque Asssault on Precinct 13 sort of way it played up it's intensity and simple concept with strong execution and instantly memorable characters. I don't think it could have worked twice though. It would seem that director/writer/editor Gareth Evans was of the same opinion and for the long awaited sequel he did what most sequels do: make it all bigger. It still works though. My fear is that with the expansion of ideas and plot that there would be a loss of some of the charm of the simplicity of the original one, but for the most part that doesn't occur with The Raid 2. It's a slamming action film that blends classic martial arts structures, Godfather inspired mafia drama, and a whole lot of violence.

Rama (Uwais) has done what he can to bring the corruption to light from the events of the first film. He takes the evidence to an internal investigation unit who recruits him to go undercover to get close to the son (Putra) of a kingpin in the organization. Things go deeper than expected and start to spin out of control though and soon there is a potential gang war on hand with a local Japanese sect.

It's a thug life.
I will forewarn those who haven't seen the film that there are two things to expect: the film is long and it is ultra violent. I have no problems with either of these elements of the film (in fact as a vulgar auteur, violence tends to be something that sells a film for me), but these are two aspects that may shy off a few people. It was obvious in my screen that people were getting ancy an hour or so into the film so it's something to be aware of and judging from how many times my wife had to look away from the screen the violence can be a little much for some.

For those unafraid to invest the time and/or stomach for The Raid 2, then you are in for a treat. Gareth Evans seems intent on outdoing himself in every aspect of the first film. The story is exponentially deeper, the action is jacked, and the stakes are higher. No longer is it just survival for our hero, it's his family on the line. No longer is there one crime lord, but we have essentially three. We don't have one henchmen, but now there is three. At times it can consume a lot of brain power to establish the film's premise as it does start off slow getting us caught up and establishing a lot of characters. I feel like they probably could have trimmed a solid 10 to 15 minutes here or there to tighten the pace up a bit in the first act, but it works impressively well for as ambitious as it can be. The story itself is not original and my Godfather reference above seems fairly legit as a leaping off point for comparison, but Evans does inject enough character work to keep the audience glued to the screen.

From there, The Raid 2 does start boiling about 45 minutes into the film. Similar to a film like 13 Assassins there might be a lot of set up, but the pay off is glorious. As the betrayals start to build, the final act of the film becomes a full on action extravaganza. All of the hype about the action was ultimately correct. The Raid 2 delivers in spades. Not only is the martial arts phenomenal as the three henchmen start tearing shit up, but Evans and company add in gun fights and a stellar car chase sequence that will have your jaw on the floor. The violence is extreme at times (oh you see plenty of the red stuff and there are a handful of "OH FUCK" moments to be had), but it's fitting for the tone of the film which slathers on atmosphere early on with Evans' visual style and strong score. Yet, let's be honest, most of us will see it for the action and The Raid 2 delivers on all promises there. 

There are a few nit-picky things I have with the film as a whole that nag at my mind despite the awesome time I had seeing the film. While the acting is overall very solid, I felt like Rama's character doesn't get enough 'emotional' moments to truly have us connected with him. For a time, I actually felt more about the kingpin's song Uco then I did for Rama and that's because for the last half of the film it forgets about his family and why he is doing what he is doing (which leads to some odd character choices for his decisions that didn't quite sit as well for me.) I also feel like, unlike the original, The Raid 2 ended on a rather odd note and felt slightly unfinished. Those who follow my reviews on Blood Brothers will know that I hate when films feel unfinished or films meant to be seen in two parts and honestly I felt like this film ended on a "to be continued" note instead of a final beat which sort of set me off track a bit.

Batter's up!
Yet, despite those criticisms it's hard for me not to fully recommend The Raid 2. It's still the best action film I've seen thus far this year and my issues seem less daunting when compared to the aspects that are done so well in the film including the web like story and the action. Yeah, the pace could have been tightened a bit and they could have given Rama a bit more oomph for his character choices, but it still works in very impressive ways. The action is simply unbelievable and Evans built a fascinating world of corruption and justice that can easily add a few more entries into the series. For action fans this is a must see kind of film.

Written By Matt Reifschneider


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  2. Such a badass action film! I had more than a hand full of "Oh Fuck" moments. I can't disagree with this review. The prison yard fight will stick with me for awhile.

  3. A complete detonation of martial arts, action, and horror. Will be seeing this one again in the theater.

    1. I appreciated the streaks of horror that were to be found in the film. Not traditional horror, mind you, but great horrifying sequences like the box cutter line up sequence.