Film Review: 'The Raid 2'
Opened: 28 March 2014
Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura
Director: Gareth Evans
Producers: Ario Sagantoro, Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian
Is it wrong that the British Film Board’s ‘18’ certificate at the start of a movie brings a giddy evil grim to my face with a response time that would have Ivan Pavlov in rapturous applause? In the sanitised modern world of the post 80s Hollywood blockbuster and the need for profits to come first, any film that garners this kind of unwanted attention from the board is to be commended, and needless to say it whetted my appetite for the glorious slaughter that followed. The Raid 2 (Berandal / Retaliation) does not disappoint both in terms of the certificate’s promise of family unfriendly violence nor its high standard of consistent production values.
After the breakout success of the first movie The Raid (Redemption), it was surely inevitable that a sequel would follow. In that initial chapter the series’ hero, rookie SWAT cop Rama (Iko Uwais), battles his way out of a poorly executed assault on a gangland headquarters. With a modest budget the director and writer of both movies, Gareth Evans was able to produce a thrilling old school action thriller that would put Sly and Arnie to shame. But much like the greatest sequels of all time, thinking here of James Cameron’s Aliens and The Godfather Part II, The Raid 2 elevates this new franchise both in terms of it’s scripting, plot and delivery.
Unlike its predecessor The Raid 2 has a bloodthirsty selection of colourful but deadly individuals for Rama to navigate, each given proper introduction and skilfully, yet quickly, drawn for the audience. For this reason dialogue occurs more regularly and with far more relevance than the first movie. A particularly gruesome and dramatic highlight being the execution of five men by bad boy Uco, using his bare hands and a craft knife while he negotiates the final details of his new ally’s nefarious plans, which are clearly sealed by the blood on his hands. While it will not be a surprise to anyone that the action of the first movie is expanded on further in this much better funded second outing, it is the attention to plot and storytelling that will undoubtedly catch everyone off guard. A more compelling back story however still takes second billing to the gloriously gore hungry and sensationally choreographed fights which are relentless and uncountable. The flowing narrative (no longer trapped in a single building) allows for much more variety including a grim mud covered knife battle and an insane car chase sequence.
There is very little room for sentiment in this cold world of death and deception, which does leave the movie rather soulless. Although there is momentary mourning for some of the players, it is a universal reaction to loss of life or perceived injustice, as opposed to a gut wrenching loss which will haunt us to the end of our lives. The only real opportunity to engage viewers deeper comes in the form of Rama’s intentionally estranged wife and child, but this angle is quickly and utterly pushed into the background leaving Rama a likeable but very square do-gooder hero.
A sensory assault of kicks, cuts and kills, The Raid 2 is an inevitable cult classic that brings fresh ideas to a currently unfashionable genre. Taking nods from The Godfather Trilogy, martial arts classics and Tarantino it is a truly gritty and intelligent action movie. The absolute antithesis of the current Hollywood hall of sanitised bums-on-seats box office beaters, this is a movie that takes no prisoners and asks questions later.
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