The overwhelming feeling at the end of arguably one of the greatest action films of all time - The Raid (a.k.a The Raid Redemption) - was that Rama's (Iko Uwais) fury wasn't in vein. The lead villains and their wasp nest of foot soldiers vanquished and his brother redeemed. After seeing The Raid, every other action movie feels like it’s wearing nappies. After seeing The Raid 2: Berandal expands the focus and splashes the unforgettably intense style of the original across a city infested.
Leading off directly from events of the original Raid, Rama must become an undercover operative, go to prison and develop a relationship with crime lord Bangon's (Tio Pakusodewo) imprisoned son Ucok (Arifin Putra) to take him to the heart of the city's corruption.
The Raid's tower is a self-contained world; The Raid 2 opens up the universe. In a strange way it must hierarchically place the criminals from the first film into the broader web of organised crime and corruption to show the futility of Rama's personal vendetta. Evans has to take Rama into a dominant crime 'family' to develop alliances that will gain him access behind the curtain to those controlling the strings. Evans takes its cues from The Godfather, The Departed/Infernal Affairs, and the criminal fraternity in a flux between legacy and integration into a political entity and the ambition of up and coming gangsters wanting to make their mark. There's a lot of world building and negotiation which doesn't have the same deft tempo or flair as the action spectacle but it's all construction of a structure that's on the precipice of demolition.
Evans has a wonderful visual sense of timing, knowing precisely when to step back and marvel at the masses of choreographed bodies colliding and to grab and toss the audience into the action. The jail mud pit fight scene is pure artistry. The camera hounds the fight, doggedly dive bombing the fray like an eagle diving down to some scurrying rodent; however when it gets close there are consequences. You're briefly anchored to Rama or one of his attackers and experience the blow or the throw. But it doesn't just open the scope that calls back to the gladiatorial arena; Evans loves to throw swarms of bodies into confined spaces to watch how Rama organises his prey. The opening of the film of Rama being attacked in a prison toilet cubicle, his dispatching of foes and controlling how many opponents he has at any given time is as spectacular as the later car chase where he must to battle with four guards transporting him in an SUV.
The newly introduced villains must contend with following the sensational Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian - who also stars as Bangun's Luca Brazi - Prakoso) but Evans has a knack for fashioning the unforgettable. The flesh divots and troughs in the wake of Hammer Girl's (Julie Estelle) balletic cleaving, the resonant pings of Baseball Bat Man's (Very Tri Yulisman) weapon of choice reflecting what part of the body is being pulverised or Bejo's (Alex Abbad) head henchman flashing what look like metallic Velociraptor claws to strip meat from bone like a butcher; he's re-writing the list of best henchman with every new work.
Uwais' Rama is a pit bull. Although you can see his fighting proficiency blooming since The Raid it's his blinding determination in the wake of the barrage of enemies that makes him the perfect hero to root for. Watching the physical and emotional commitment of the final crescendo
If there are any criticisms, it's that the events of The Raid, unfortunately, feel somewhat pointless faced with a city so totally infected by crime. The question is always "Is The Raid 2 as good as or better than the first film?" Perhaps the best thing that I can say is that The Raid was a battle for a block, The Raid 2 is the war for control of the city; and you're treated to a (near) never-ending highlight reel of some of the fiercest action this reviewer has ever experienced.
The Raid and now The Raid 2: Berandal are action cinema evolving; everything else must adapt or die.
[rating=4] and half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Written by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusodewo, Ryûhei Matsuda, Alex Abbad, Ken'ichi Endô, Epy Kusnandar, Very Tri Yulisman, Cok Simbara
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.