THE RAID 2
***1/2 (out of 5)
April 11, 2014
Iko Uwais as RAMA
Julie Estelle as HAMMER GIRL
Yayan Ruhian as PRAKOSO
Arifin Putra as UCOK
Donny Alamsyah as ANDI
Oka Antara as EKA
Alex Abbad as BEJO
Tio Pakusodewo as BANGUN
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by: Gareth Huw Evans
BY KEVIN CARR
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Of all the films that have been released in the last five years, few movies were more steeped in hyperbole than “The Raid: Redemption.” If you believed the internet and the fanboy love that erupted out of the South by Southwest Film Festival where the movie made a splash, you’d believe that “The Raid: Redemption” wasn’t just the greatest action movie of the year. You’d believe it was the greatest action movie ever made, or ever will be made, in the entire span of space and time.
It wasn’t. That’s not to say that “The Raid: Redemption” was bad. Instead, that’s to say that the film was a fun action ride that relied heavily on excitement and support from a theater filled with die-hard fans.
So while I enjoyed watching “The Raid: Redemption,” I saw it for what it was: A solid martial arts actioner with a relatively simple plot and great fight sequences. Of course, that’s also all it was, and those fight sequences – while spectacular – got old after a while.
The greatest achievement of “The Raid 2” is that it doesn’t try to be the first film. It doesn’t try to top what has already been done. It doesn’t try to go bigger and more violent. Instead, it simply tells another story, a different story, which makes the whole thing work.
In this sequel, Rama (Iko Uwais) takes a new assignment. This time, he’s going deep undercover to bust open a massive crime syndicate. He starts in prison where he befriends the son of a crime lord. This allows him to gain access to the operation once he is released two years later. While internal struggles between father and son threaten to tear apart the crime family, Rama fights off his own slate of assassins.
“The Raid 2” is a grander story, though it’s not necessarily a bigger movie. The 150-minute running time might seem daunting, especially if you’re expecting a rehash of the previous film which was nothing more than a floor-by-floor slug-fest in an apartment building. However, because director Gareth Huw Evans is consciously making a different movie, the film works.
Instead of being a straightforward and plot-simple film about breaking through the defenses of a crime lord with brute force, it’s a more nuanced movie. We don’t necessarily see more development with Rama, but rather we are offered a layered look at the crime business of his targets. There are degrees of bad guys in this film, and there are multiple levels of betrayal to be made.
In this sense, “The Raid 2” plays more like a slower burn crime thriller you might see made by Michael Mann or Ridley Scott. We get a slow build through the film, and while it can get a bit complicated at times, it’s a much smoother ride and a slicker film.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll miss the martial arts. Rather than just fighting with their fists and feet, the villains in this movie each has his or her own weapons – from knives and guns to hammers and baseball bats. It’s creative violence, just on the cusp of being campy but still keeping a feeling of danger and realism.
I’m not prone to listing this film or its predecessor on my slate of greatest action films of all time, but it’s definitely in a category above most, and it’s worth seeing for both the expected action and the unexpectedly more intricate plot.