For all intents and purposes the end of The Raid signified that Rama’s story was only just beginning, and that there were more powerful forces at play than we were led to believe. The first Raid was a very quiet hit at film festivals, and even a quieter hit with the general audience. However the numbers were strong enough to get a sequel into production. After all, the film did end on a cliffhanger of sorts.
So with the action exiting the building and taking place in what looks like the entire country of Indonesia, Gareth Evans created an all too familiar story, which looks like it was based on another story, which is actually based on another story that runs far too long than it should suppose to. But with gritty action and gorgeous fight choreography, The Raid 2 is destined to be another great action film. Hit the jump for the full review.
When we last left rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais), he was leaving with two fellow police officers who had survived an ordeal that nearly killed the entire squad. Finding out that there was a rat amongst the group, Rama is asked to go in and infiltrate the crime family that has ties to the building they raided in the first film. In fact the film starts two hours after the first film ended, and after a harsh debriefing a reluctant, Rama realizes that to save his family he must do this. But what he doesn’t realize is that he must go deeper than he should to get the evidence he needs to bring one of Indonesia’s most dangerous crime families down.
It’s never easy to follow up the original with a sequel. Sequels are so often a pale comparison to the original. That being said, the action in The Raid 2 is hands down one of the best I had ever seen. But on the other hand, it’s story is one that is all too familiar, and for a nearly two hour epic action film, Evans doesn’t quite seem to know when to call cut on the dialogue scenes.
We get these long drawn out moments that seem to have the slowest of pacings. When the rival gang aspect comes into play, Rama’s struggles to keep his sanity intact is almost forgotten. So much of the film seems to address the fact that Rama is all fist and kicks and no heart. It forgets that he has a moral obligation to protect the reputation of the Jakarta Police Department and his family.
Evans draws a lot of the inspiration of the undercover cop theme from films like The Departed or Infernal Affairs, in fact it goes even further back. But it’s the idea that it takes nearly 2.5 hours – which is nearly as long as The Departed except it has more punches and broken bones – tells us that Evans wanted this story to be fleshed out to the bone. Which leaves me wondering what is left to tell if there is a Raid 3.
While there is a struggle to tell Rama’s story, there also seems to be a struggle to tell the story of the rival gangs. Each of them vying for either the top spot or some percentage of control. There is a son who doesn’t want to be a collector to his father’s business any more. Then there is an ambitious gangster who will take advantage of that in hopes to slide himself in. Then there are Japanese gangsters who will out-muscle the Indonesian gang off their own turf if they feel threatened. There are a lot of threads to connect, and the story exploded in a way that makes The Raid 2 feel more like splatter than something that should be cohesive.
Fortunately the action sequences make up for the slack made by the story. Unlike the first film where it was restrained to the confines of a building, The Raid 2 makes the entire country of Indonesia it’s playground, giving way for mobsters, gangsters, and police officers to be involved in all kinds of interesting action sequences that can only be described as absolutely beautifully choreographed. Not only that, but the cinematography will show how beautiful some of the city’s infrastructure really is. The fight scenes in certain backdrops like the red carpet restaurant, makes everything pop. While the high speed car chase scenes show how sophisticated Indonesia’s traffic can really be.
There isn’t a moment in any of these action sequences where a mobster or low ranking criminal is not feeling excruciating pain or dying in some crazy manner. A lot of these scenes are fun, especially when comic book-esque characters like Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) are recruited to weed out some of the rival gang members. As their names imply, they use signature weapons to kill their opponents.
Now a lot these scenes can feel relentless. The 2.5 runtime makes it feel as though you know when the action sequence is going to begin as opposed to knowing it will happen eventually. Predictability. And while it does come of as a bit predictable, it doesn’t make the action any less fun. In fact, it pays off. There are wonderful – in what appears to be – one shot take action sequences, a breathtaking and very daring car chase scene, and one of the most beautiful one on one hand to hand combat fight scenes I have seen in a very long time.
The Raid 2 isn’t for the lighthearted or one who is low on patience. The blood and guts split is very entertaining if not an absolute blast to watch on the big screen. In fact it would have been even more fun had it not been for the very boring and drawn out story, and its very dull characters. But if you can push that all aside, then you will see that The Raid 2 will be one of the best action films, in terms of just action and not story, this year.
The Raid 2 opens in NY/LA theaters on March 28, and expands to a wide release on April 11.