It is a rare, yet powerful occurrence when an audience offers applause at the end of a movie. It is a statement of respect to the filmmakers and a way for us to thank them for entertaining us in their world. The Raid 2 left me breathless and bewildered in the grandest fashion by the time the credits rolled. Any high expectations of this sequel are met, if not exceeded, as it confidently expands upon the story of it’s predecessor. This is the sequel Raid Redemption fans have been waiting for.
Raid 2 picks up immediately after the events of the first movie. Our protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais) is asked to go into deep undercover to further eradicate the criminal syndicates that were behind the events of the first film. Rama’s superiors are seeking a more permanent solution to end the corruption that grips the city. The Raid 2 shows us Rama’s blood-laden journey as he dismantles these criminal organizations from the inside. It is a fantastic setup for actor Iko Uwais to not only display his immense fighting talent, but his noticeably improved abilities as an actor as well.
The premise may initially appear to be two-dimensional, but make no mistake; there’s a very well-told story held up by great supporting actors. The gang leader’s son Uco (Arifin Putra), is deviously played as naive rise-to-power archetype that wishes only to meet the expectations of his father. The villains in Raid Redemption seem cookie-cutter in comparison to the brash and unstable Uco. After a wonderfully directed prison riot early on, through mud and blood our hero Rama earns favor with Uco. The movie then thrusts the audience through a pitch-perfect pace of tense inside-man battles of trust and the violent whirlwind action fans have come to expect from The Raid 2.
The story successfully expands on the world that the first Raid only tried to explain. Fans of Redemption may worry that the exposition will get in the way of Gareth Evan’s signature action. Fret not, every story beat is punctuated with merciless action sequences that transform into bloody marathons of magnificent Indonesian martial arts. The fight choreography and camera work here is a well-oiled machine. Most films have cinematographers that compliment the action sequences. Here, the cinematography is just as much as part of the action as the actors are. Cameras sweep, duck, and dance to Raid 2’s fight sequences flawlessly. Every hard-hitting punch, kick, and cut is wince-inducing and truly felt. Straight up, The Raid 2 has more and better action than the first. Which is already a daunting task that Gareth Evans easily surpasses.
The blood. Oh my the blood. No one in this movie has an easy death. If someone has a knife, baseball bat, shotgun, karambit, hammer or even just fists; they will usually dispatch foes in the worst way imaginable. Raid 2’s action is unforgiving and there are no pull-aways. It shows you everything and leaves nothing to your imagination. Be warned, this film is not for the squeamish. It was wonderful to see Evans experiment more with his camera work and bring us the best car chase since the Bourne Identity or French Connection. The stunt driving is bloody phenomenal, literally.
For me personally, The Raid 2: Berandal is wonderful as it is worrisome. Here you have an immense production with cast and crew that not many people in the States are even aware of. Gareth Evan’s vision and writing are confident and it shows. It shows in Uwais’ and Putra’s performance. The Raid 2 is the greatest gift action fans have received in a long time. However, here in the States it is run in limited releases. It showed on just two screens at the theater I went to with twelve others dedicated to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Which I’m sure is still very good in it’s own right. Berandal is a foreign production with subtitles and that’s enough to scare some people away from it. Which is a shame. I’m lucky to have watched it with a great audience that was just as immersed as I.
I can say with complete confidence that The Raid 2: Berandal is the best action movie I’ve ever seen. Flat out. As a sequel, it enlarges the scope of the story as well as the action from the first movie. The story is richly told and never gets in the way of it’s freight-train level of momentum action. Gareth Evan’s writing allows Uwais and Putra to bring more human characters into what could’ve been another soulless action movie. Thankfully, the action is just as colorful as it is plentiful. It is filled with gang land intrigue and uninhibited merciless violence that will keep you thinking about it for days to come. It apologizes for nothing and is very much in touch with what the audience wants. The winks and nods to the first movie are very welcome, but with this sequel out to the masses; The Raid 2 has officially become a franchise. It is now a brand for which action junkies now judge others against. It has punched and slashed it’s way through the Western pantheon of action movies and now sits upon it’s throne bloody and untouched. Any action fan NEEDS to see this movie, you owe it to yourself. The Raid 2: Berandal is a day one purchase for me and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel.
Insert Geek’s Movie Report Card: A+
+ A surprisingly well-told story
+ Frenetic and gruesome action sequences
+ Solid lead performances
+ Oh my God the blood
– A couple of underdeveloped characters appear solely in service of the action
+ But… that’s not a bad thing
+ Hammer Girl is adorable
Check out the trailer below!