Review by Monkey Fist
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
That was the first word that came to mind after I finished The Raid 2. I remember watching Ong Bak a number of years back followed by Chocolate thereafter. Both films were great and have definitely pushed the limits for action cinema with their intricate and nail-biting action sequences. I personally thought that it would probably take about a decade before another martial arts film would bring it to the next level. I stand corrected.
The Raid 2 starts right where the first one ends. After Rama (Iko Uwais) made it out alive from the killing zone, he gets dragged into an undercover mission to infiltrate Jakarta’s underworld to weed out corrupt police men. It is an arduous and lengthy task…one that starts with him getting thrown into prison! Rama’s mission is to get close to Uco- the scion of a crime syndicate, and to do that he saves his life in dramatic fashion. From then on, we see Rama slowly going deeper into the seedy underworld of crime and battling waves of gangsters! Whilst I agree that the plot itself isn’t the most original as there are umpteen films out there with similar themes, I thought The Raid 2 was better than its predecessor in terms of story-telling, action sequences, camera angles and the characters. On the whole it felt less two dimensional as compared to the first installment.
The action for The Raid 2 is nothing less than stupendous. For many Hollywood flicks, the Directors tend to adopt a quick and snazzy editing technique for the action sequences. Gareth Evans, on the other hand, follows the action in longer takes and that makes it more intense, as we actually witness what’s going on, as well as feel the carnage. I’d go as far to say that The Raid 2 is the most violent action film I’ve ever seen. Throats are ripped by hammers/blade, skulls are crushed with baseball bats, bones are relentlessly broken and frankly, this might probably be too much for most mainstream audience, but for hardcore action fanatics, the experience would be utter bliss! You’d expect to be desensitised after 150 minutes of brutality, but you don’t! Even at the all-action finale, you still feel every brutal hit and bone breakage. What’s more interesting is the way Gareth Evans shoots these scenes. It’s done in the most sublime and balletic way that is reminiscent of some of John Woo’s classics.
The finale is simply mesmerising. It harks back to the first film as it’s basically a series of unbelievably amazing fight scenes, only this time there’s a greater weight to them as they mean so much to the plot and characters in the film. I loved the intense battle with hammer girl and the baseball lad, as well as the EPIC kitchen fight which seems to go on for all eternity. They make the Mad Dog fight at the end of the first film look like child’s-play! The Raid 2 is far more than a sequel needs to be. It’s much bigger and much better, which is saying a lot because the first film was already great. It has definitely raised the bar again for others to follow. No CGI. No wires. Just pure hard-hitting action and tight choreography (Eat your heart out, Jackie!). The films itself may feel a little long at 150 minutes but I thought it was necessary to accommodate to all the characters and their respective story arcs. The ending promises a Raid 3, and for action fans, there couldn’t have been better news!