Could Lighting really strike twice? In 2011 no could a little unknown independent Indonesian action film with a Welsh director creating such a buzz, a buzz that created such a critical storm it wasn’t until it reached British shores (Glasgow Film 4 Frightfest) we could truly see why it was such a special film. That film was The Raid, 2014 The Raid 2 has arrived and whatever you do do not hold an umbrella as lightning has struck again.
The Raid 2 starts a couple of hours after the first film, our hero Rama (Iko Uwais) finds himself reluctantly going undercover again.Thrown deep into the lion’s den into the centre of an feuding gang war but also closer to the heart of the corruption back undercover this time in prison and to slip into the trust of Uco (Arifin Putra) the son of the mafia boss Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo) he’s trying to infiltrate. He saves Uco from certain death during a massive mud brawl in jail which earn’s the trust of the son and the father becoming one of the gang’s trusted enforcers. What started as an operation of several months spans into something even longer Rama starts to gain even more trust from those around him but also slipping deeper into the gang’s underbelly most of all a threat to his life and his family.
Your first impressions are how can a 95-minute first film have a sequel that clocks in at just under 2 hours 30 minutes? The running time may put off some folks stick with it as it’s the quickest (&; best) two and half hours you’ll experience, bodies will hit the floor, baseball bats will swing .Leonard Nimoy will regret not getting that hammer he sang about as it will be hammer time. Gareth Evans has masterfully created a film that’s action packed and dramatic at the same time with that healthy dose of drama that’s not too similar to vintage Hong Kong ala John Woo a little bit of Beat Takashi too.Evans has given the characters a voice, a narrative which may be still at a basic level giving our hero a reason to deliver a beatdown.
The Raid 2 is a rare commodity that actually exceeds the original film, a sequel that’s actually better than it’s predecessor.In what The Raid lacked in the plot made it up with a blood fueled bruising ride, The Raid 2 delivers a more balanced visceral experience if anything this doesn’t really feel like a sequel but more an individual film in its own right but also compliment each other perfectly. Evans has created his very own Internal Affairs, shifting the film’s genre boundaries this doesn’t mean the action has been toned down, far from it, if anything it’s crazier. This change gives it, even more, scope and depth, the set pieces are bigger, bloodier, more ambitious, you will be picking your jaw off the cinema floor or even clapping.
The Raid was a lesson on how to deliver a quality film with a near nil budget, The Raid 2 is the testament to that type of filmmaking. With a few tweaks, tricks of the trade you can easily make a film feel a million dollars, even Hollywood will be watching these guys on how to do it. The Kineticism of the camera work captures, every punch, slice even break with great freciousity, the director’s imagination runs wild as he invites you deep into his world, a world of pure choreographed action ballet. There are several scenes that back this, from the mud pool prison yard fight with 40 plus prisoners swimming and slamming in the mud. The extraordinary car chase that put’s film’s greatest ever chases(French Connection, Drive) to shame to steal the crown and how many car chases do you know that have full on fist fights in a fully speeding car? One, The Raid 2.If there is one scene that will stand tall in any classic Martial Arts/action masterpiece is the film’s end scene Kitchen fight. This is a scene that even Bruce Lee would be proud to be involved. I don’t know many films I’ve been to where the scene ends with a round of applause from the viewing audience, a true testament to the immense athleticism of all the actors involved.
A host of new characters delivers some fresh impotence to the film. Bejo (Alex Abbad)the cane walking repulsive psychopath who brings imbalance amongst gangs fragile relationship. But it’s Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) who steals the show with a character that looks like a character that’s just walked off the set of a Tarantino film. She is a decorous psychopath and when she finally confront’s Rama it’s as if the setting was like a scene straight out Oldboy on the set of Only God Forgives, she’s not alone Baseball Bat man(Very Tri Yulisman) who has a mean swing and the nerve to ask his victims to throw the ball back. The whole set up is perfect even those old faces from the first film can come back as new ones, such as Yayan Ruhian (aka Mad Dog) who plays Prakoso a vagabond one time enforcer for Bangun who faces his own destiny like Rama.
The Raid 2 maybe longer, multi-layered dialogue driven slow burner, but it’s also the best 2 1/2 of visceral action fun you’ll see this year. Grab a popcorn leave your brain at home and let your senses be assaulted from every angle that’s (in)humanly possible. The action is unflinchingly brutal, spleen ripping bone crushing entertainment, unlike like it’s predecessor you will have just witness the new blueprint for future action films.
★★★★★| Paul Devine
Action, Thriller|Indonesia, 2014 |18 | 11th April 2014 (UK) | eOne UK |Dir:Gareth Huw Evans |Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Yayan Ruhian, Alex Abbad, Tio Pakusodewo, Arifin Putra