The badass cop from the first film penetrates yakuza-like gangs by going undercover hoping to expose more of the corruption unveiled in his police force. There’s the plot; in my opinion though, it’s openly just a vehicle for the bewitching action sequences that put this series on the map.
Welsh director Gareth Evans knows how to put together a fight scene. The hand to hand combat in particular was so brilliant in his first film “Merantau” and the original “The Raid” that the latter is now one of the most popular foreign language films on Netflix. Expanding on this, “The Raid 2: Berandal” attempts to go bigger and better on all fronts and for the most part succeeds.
19 times. My mouth went dry 19 times, unbeknownst to me it just hung open during each fight scene and I think that reaction is exactly what the film is going for. These are some of the most inventive, chaotic and yet poetic action sequences filmed in recent years. Silat martial arts as well as a combination of other disciplines are demonstrated masterfully by the main characters, including a return of the “dog”. Watching Iko Uwais perform all his own stunts was actually quite refreshing too as there aren’t many people in cinema nowadays willing to take such risks. Furthermore, there are also lots of people firing guns which is always good.
The first fight of the film is contained in a toilet cubicle in prison where Rama (Uwais) takes down 15 men on his own through rapid attack and defense. The handycam action is so engaging, it literally dances round the action. In fact, the cubicles in this scene were built on expandable hinges so the camera could slip beside and behind Rama as the challengers filed in, this and more was explained in the wicked behind the scenes videos available on Vimeo.
Evans gives us fight scenes just about everywhere. Offices, restaurants, nightclubs and muddy prison grounds among others become battlegrounds and he uses each environment in combination with awesome choreography to make each engagement completely unique. On a boggy, muddy surface? Try and drown your enemy in it. In a bar? Throw every glass and smash every bottle in reach. The multitude of locations is much more visually stimulating and allows Evans to apply his own style to extra elements such as car chases previously unavailable as the entirety of the first film occurred in one building.
The film is 50 minutes longer than its predecessor however and I don’t think it needed to be. “The Raid 2” attempts to humanize characters that in my opinion are better off remaining one-dimensional and introduces a multitude of other characters which in some instances make the story a little complicated. At the same time though, Hammer Girl and… let’s call him “Bat-Boy” (potentially inspired by Team Fortress 2?) are pretty astounding in the way their weapons of choice are incorporated into their fighting style. Also, the most convincing performances come from non-combat characters such as Bejo, our villain, and Uco, the overly-ambitious son of the Asian Godfather equivalent. In fact, an overly civilized meeting of the heads of the houses reminded me massively of “The Godfather” and also punching the wall in prison of “Oldboy”, possible nods of the head?
“The Raid 2” is a spectacle. If you loved the fast-paced brawls of the first one, the sequel is the same but on crack with a story that might rope you in emotionally too but probably won’t.
I loved it, 8 out of 10 from me.