The Raid: Redemption was a breathtaking surprise out of Indonesia in 2011. It was a no-frills, all out action fest with some of the most incredible hand-to-hand and martial arts scenes ever filmed. Writer/Director Gareth Evans crafted a very tight 90 minute one location action movie that put aside any real character development or unnecessary plot in favor of a cacophony of brutality. Now in 2014 we are given a sequel that picks up mere hours after the first ended. However, where the first film reveled in its stripped down approach The Raid 2 favors a far grander scope. Gareth Evans gives us his version of The Godfather and Goodfellas mixed with Infernal Affairs (or the American remake The Departed if you’re so inclined.) This is an ambitious film and it is a wonder to behold. The only caveat is the penchant for ridiculous violence that is all over the film.
The Raid 2: Berandal follows the Iko Uwais character Rama from the first film. He is a police officer that is desperately trying to stop the corruption that is plaguing the police force and government. He is enlisted to go undercover and infiltrate the Bangun crime family by getting thrown in jail so he can befriend Bangun’s son Uco. After his release he worms his way into the family and must remain ever vigilant as Uco and the syndicate clash with the rival Japanese. This is a story that’s been told before, but what those films didn’t have was the brilliance that is this film’s action scenes.
Gareth Evans films action in ways that have never been seen. The camerawork is impeccable and he shoots in ways that don’t seem possible. The choreography, camerawork, and editing combine to make one of the most unique film going experiences you will likely ever have. There is even a car chase scene that rivals the very best that have been filmed. The most amazing element is how seamless all of the action is considering how many special effects must be used. Bones are breaking and blood is flying, but the camera never flinches. As a further testament to all of the above elements, the film is mostly shot hand-held, yet we never lose track of what’s going on. Most hand-held fight scenes are purposely shot so that the audience feels the chaos of the situation but can’t really tell what specifically is going on. That is not the case with The Raid 2. The hand-held method here allows us to move with the fight. The audience sways with the action and feels the hits. It is marvelous, innovative, and inventive.
Iko Uwais is stellar as Rama and brings an emotional weight to his actions that wasn’t seen in the first film. For me though, the standout was Arifin Putra as Uco. Putra is magnificent throughout the film as the ambitious son of a crime boss that is tired of waiting for his turn to rule. He makes the dynamic between his father and himself relatable and brings a tragic character majestically to life. This is his most high profile role to date and it bodes well for his future.
The Raid 2: Berandal is a visceral experience that is not to be missed for fans of the genre. There is nothing quite like it. It’s almost as if Tarantino mashed up Reservoir Dogs with Kill Bill. Gareth Evans served as writer, director, and editor on the film. He served as action choreographer on the first film and lends his hand here as well, along with three others, two of which are Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian who star in the film. There is so much to love here that I could rattle on and on for hours, but I didn’t want to understate how amazed I was at the work of these men. This is the kind of film that genre fans will sit around and gush over saying things like, “Oh Oh remember that one scene with hammer girl on the train? That was awesome.” And everyone will smile because they do remember that scene and it was fantastic. Then someone else will break in with a recollection of another scene and the smiling will go on and on. Grade: A