The Raid 2 - Reviewed By Dj Mack

Gareth Evans' The Raid: Redemption was a balls-to-the-wall action film featuring extreme violence in a contained setting.  This time, Evans opens the action up to the entirety of the city and ups both the violence, ambition, insanity, and fun, along with the running time to create an action film unlike any other.

Taking place two hours after The Raid: Redemption ended, The Raid 2 finds Rama (Iko Uwais) going undercover to infiltrate crime lords' rings and bring down corruption in the police force.

Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais reprises his role as Rama, the Jakarta police officer who took down a drug lord in control of a high-rise building. Rama did so, pretty much by himself with nothing more than his feet and fists. This movie follows almost immediately after the first ends with Rama being put undercover to expose police corruption connected to another drug lord named Bangun, played by Tio Pakusodewo (Java Heat). Bangun is maintaining the peace opposite other mobster families.

How Rama infiltrates Bangun's organization is through impressing and even saving Bangun's son, Uco, played by Indonesian-German actor Arifin Putra, in several prison fight scenes. Rama is given the false identity of Yuda, the name of Uwais' character in his very first film Merantau (2009). Rama pretends to be Yuda, a hardened criminal who is sentenced to the same prison as Uco. His job is to befriend Uco and gain his trust. Aside from a cafeteria talk where Rama is stoic, the two prison fight scenes, the bathroom and the mud yard fight, are all we're given. The film cuts to two years later and it jumps to Uco embracing Rama and it's not enough. There needed to be more to build that relationship between Rama and Uco.

After a while, the movie loses sight of what Rama is doing as an undercover cop, what his goal is or even that Rama is a presence here. There are literally many, many, many scenes where Rama is absent and there is no regard to where he is or what he's doing. It got to a point where I ceased to care about Rama.

There's even a redundancy where Rama learns that there is another undercover cop. It's at that other cop's reveal that it's confirmed that Rama is redundant and his character was not needed at all in this plot. Writer-director Gareth Evans could have made this movie exclusively about Uco and Bangun, a father and son, mobster tale of jealousy and betrayal, but Evans ruins it with a ton of unnecessary stuff.

For example, Evans introduces a character, Prakoso or Koso, played by Yayan Ruhian, who played a completely different character in Evans' previous film. Clearly, Evans likes this guy who is a very good, martial artist. Ruhian is actually the fight choreographer for all three of Evans' Indonesian movies. Sadly, everything about the character of Koso is completely unnecessary and a waste of narrative drive. Never at any point do we care about Koso but so much time and reverence is given to this character that it didn't make sense.

Because of all this waste, this film feels like it just wants to revel in depravity and violence. One scene has a random moment where we see pornography or gender-bending sex occur with no explanation and another scene has a character slowly and methodically slice open and kill five men one by one. The fight scenes go on forever when they didn't need to do.

It's one thing to do the display of endurance, which the first attempted that makes the movie like watching ballet or some form of dance. For martial arts enthusiasts, this is a night out at the ballet. For those who aren't martial arts enthusiasts, this comes across as Evans merely wanting to paint the screen with blood, even to the point of contriving action scenes that feel extremely, extremely contrived.

Rama is captured and the bad guys are ordered to get rid of him. Instead of shooting him while he's down and unconscious, which they should have done, they drag him out and put him in the back seat of a car. Instead of tying Rama up or throwing him in the trunk, which they should have done, the bad guys give him a nice comfy seat in the back seat. Why do they do this? It's not because it makes sense. It was because Evans wanted a fight scene in the car, resulting in a very long and crazy car chase scene. This is an example of Evans contriving action against all logic.

Evans has so much gore, so much blood, and so much of it in the face of the audience. It's clear that he's reveling in violence. One scene has Rama press a man's face against a hot stove, melting the side of the person's head. Evans' camera lingers on the man's face as it's being burned. He lingers on it for a long time, almost as if this is his porn and in-your-face violence arouses him. With the face-burning scene, he's giving you the cum shot.

It's bad enough when the villains engage in this kind of pornographic violence, but to have the filmmaking do this to the protagonist is the worse. Rama is already a non-presence here. To have him depicted in this pornographic way is further unappealing and distancing.

At least, Evans is honest in his intentions. An early scene has Rama strip completely naked, so Bangun can look at his penis. The point is that Bangun is making sure Rama can be trusted. Any evidence of Rama's disloyalty would result in his death or violence against Rama. This is the perfect scene illustrating what this movie is.

Here, you have Iko Uwais naked and in a pornographic position but the scene is all about the threat or the infliction of violence. It's not like a naked Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale (2006). That movie took the time to develop that character and not revel or dwell in the violence.

Like The Raid: Redemption, this film is about the action.  However, with The Raid 2, Evans gives the film an ambitious crime drama storyline that fuels the action.  The plot is occasionally too convoluted for its own good, but is engaging, clever, and features just enough twists and turns.  However, as mentioned, the action is key here.  Like The Raid: Redemption, Evans uses everything and the kitchen sink in his kinetic action sequences.  This time, as mentioned, the action largely takes place outdoors and is not limited to hand-to-hand combat or gunplay.  The centerpiece of the film is an extended car chase sequence that, without exaggeration, is one of the greatest in cinema history.  Using a long take that spans two moving cars as its most impressive shot, this sequence is rough, violent, and pulse-poundingly brilliant.

What distinguishes the action scenes in the two Raid films, The Raid 2 in particular, is the athleticism of the cinematography, the precision of the editing, and the brutal beauty of the choreography.  Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Sumhono's cinematography is ambitious in its use of long takes and their willingness to follow the action anywhere and from any angle.  Through an extensive and effective use of close-ups, they manage to keep the action simultaneously intimate and epic in scale with an unmatched intensity.  The choreography, much of which is crafted by star Iko Uwais, is graceful, yet incredibly brutal.  The brutality is furthered by Gareth Evans' editing (yes, he edits his own movies too).  The action scenes are occasionally too long for their own good, but he keeps each one moving fast.  I felt the impact of every impalement and beat-down, which leads us to the violence.

I've seen few films as eye-meltingly violent as The Raid 2.  No descriptions can do it justice.  For many, that will be an attraction and for an equal number of people, that will be a deterrent.  In Evans' insistence that we feel every bone break and every slice, he uses an unparalleled amount of explicit gore, particularly in the multi-part climax which is thrilling, satisfying, and again, perfectly choreographed.  The violence is all in the service of realism.

Iko Uwais leads the committed, athletic cast and gives the film a heart.  His excellence during the action and dramatic sequences is quite impressive.  As a martial artist, he is lightning fast, performing sequences that move so fast that it becomes near insanity.  The performances of the supporting cast are also solid.

Overall, The Raid 2 is a superb action film, flaws and all.  While the hand-to-hand action scenes become a bit repetitive after a while (until Evans changes them up, at least), The Raid 2 is thrilling, it pushes the envelope, and it has some of the most spectacularly brutal action scenes ever.  Gareth Evans has topped the first film in every sense of the word, and I cannot wait to see what violent mayhem he dreams up for The Raid 3.