Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sequences of Strong Bloody Violence throughout, Sexuality and Language
(Indonesian with English subtitles)
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Written by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Cecep Arif Rahman, Cok Simbara, Yayan Ruhian & Very Tri Yulisman
Gareth Evans floored audiences with THE RAID. Upon its release in 2012, the film gained an instant cult following. I frequently see it being held as one of the best action movies of the new millennium. While I don’t dispute that statement in the slightest, something worth pointing out is that there aren’t a whole lot of truly great action films in the new millennium (if you exclude all the superhero films). I found the first RAID to be a lot of violent fun. Alas, it wasn’t perfect. THE RAID 2, on the other hand, is a friggin’ masterpiece of this genre. This sequel has a more workable premise than the predecessor and is set on a far bigger scale, with even more mayhem to behold.
Taking place two hours after the conclusion of THE RAID, good cop Rama finds himself being drafted into an undercover operation to take down the dirty officers in his precinct. His objective is to get close to the son of a notorious mob boss and work his way into the crime syndicate to expose all the criminals. This is made more difficult due to turmoil happening in a gang war between the two notable mob families. Rama tries to blend into the mafia without losing himself in the process. He also faces off against corrupt cops, vicious assassins, and ruthless gangsters.
Besides just focusing on the crazy action scenes, which are plentiful, director/writer Gareth Evans pays attention to the details of the inner workings of the mob. This is all while Rama tries to lay low and avoids drawing attention to himself, all while appearing loyal to the organized crime that surrounds him. There’s also the looming presence of Uco (the mob boss’ son) and his father who are at odds, not to mention another self-made criminal waiting in the shadows. It sounds like there’s a lot to process in the plot of THE RAID 2, because there is. The film is 150 minutes and makes every second count.
The first RAID suffered from the constraints of these characters being confined into a single apartment building (albeit a 30-story one) and this had an effect on the action scenes throughout. There were absolutely amazing moments (the hallway fight, the meth lab scene, etc.), but the visuals seemed to all have the same gloomy atmosphere which mixed all the other fight scenes into one big dimly lit blur for me. THE RAID 2 sets up each fight scene distinctly and artistically. The film gets insanely gory at times. One moment in a subway featuring a hammer-wielding assassin actually caused a couple to walk out of the theater shaking their heads in dismay. This is being said as a cautionary warning, because if you can’t stand excessive graphic violence, then you won’t be able to handle this movie at all! I find it a bit perplexing that this cut escaped from the clutches of the MPAA with an R rating, because it’s the most violent film I’ve ever seen on the big screen (and I’ve seen plenty of brutality in movie theaters). It’s almost draining in some ways, because I felt a ridiculous amount of adrenaline pumping all throughout the movie. By the time the credits begin to roll, it almost felt like I went for a work out.
THE RAID 2 fixes every single problem I had with the first film and this is partly due to a far better script. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the action scenes, particularly one set in a kitchen (you’ll know when it begins), gain iconic status in this genre. This is a film that goes to show that not all action films need to have cheesy one-liners, dumb writing, or a silly sense of humor. THE RAID 2 is contrary to all of those tropes, because the story is awesome and takes itself seriously. There are no quips or winks to the audience. This is a bloody great time for those wanting to witness cans of whoop-ass being opened by many different people (Rama, gangsters, assassins, etc.) handling many different weapons (hammers, baseball bats, claws, etc.) in many different places (subway, kitchen, prison yard, etc.).
If I had to sum THE RAID 2 up in a single sentence I’d say “THE GODFATHER with elements of THE DEPARTED set in Indonesia with tons of kick-ass action scenes.” You should already know if this movie’s made for you. The only flaw I can really poke in this two-and-a-half-hour ride is that once you’ve eaten the steak that is THE RAID 2, you might not want to return to the cheap hamburgers of other would-be action films of this era (at least, for a while). This is not only the best action movie thus far in the millennium, but one of the best action movies ever made!