Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Raid 2: Berandal (2014): Review

The Raid 2: Berandal is a 2014 Indonesian action film. Directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid) starring Iko Uwais (The Raid), Arifin Putra (Macabre), Julie Estelle (Kuntilanak) and Yayan Ruhian (The Raid). The film is a sequel to the original cult classic from 2012.

The film picks up straight after the events of the first movie with Rama (Uwais) and his fellow survivors approaching a police contact with hard evidence of corruption given to him by his gangster brother Andi. Head of the top secret anti-corruption squad Bunawar explains to Rama that unfortunately his evidence is not good enough and in order to prosecute the corrupt police chief Reza, he must infiltrate Jakarta’s criminal underworld. Upon threat to his family’s safety Rama agrees and after being sent to prison to befriend Uco (Putra), heir to one of the largest gangs in the city, manages to climb to the position of trusted hired muscle. All that remains is for Rama to jump through Bunawar’s hoops to collect necessary evidence before fragile truce’s collapse and Jakarta is plunged into widespread gang warfare.

As you can tell the one thing that has been drastically improved from the original is the plot. Part of the beauty of the first Raid was its refreshing simplicity and focus on visceral action set-pieces rather than overcomplicating things. But, as with so many sequels to extremely popular films, the idea here is very much “bigger is better” and with a runtime of two and a half hours, timespan of over two years and multiple locations all over Jakarta a truly epic film has been lovingly crafted. Also, the undercover cop/gang politics plot is brilliantly woven and serves to pick up any slack between the jaw dropping action sequences, which occur at perfectly timed intervals.

Another feature that has been retained and built upon is the video game style enemies and levels that Rama has to navigate in order to reach his goal. It’s no surprise that there has been an accompanying Streets of Rage style game released as a marketing tool as there are bosses and mini-bosses aplenty here. Crafting henchman characters is a lost art rarely seen since the James Bond films got so serious and Evans presents an array of exaggerated villains in the form of “Hammer Girl”(Estelle), “Baseball Bat Man” and “The Assassin”. And if you thought that the violence would be toned down for a wider cinematic release then think again, somehow The Raid 2 is even more violent than its predecessor whilst still managing to present the mayhem in a stylish South Korean arthouse style.

If you take the simple concept of the first film, mix it with one part Infernal Affairs, one part Oldboy and pump all of the elements up to a sensory overload level then what you get is The Raid 2. Effortlessly grand, beautifully shot, intricately plotted and heroically violent Evans has raised the already high bar set by the first film and created a new benchmark in martial arts, action cinema that both East and West will now struggle to surpass. This is what a sequel should be, this is what an action film should be and this is what a martial arts film should be!

***** 5 Stars

What did you think of The Raid 2? Did you prefer it to the first film?


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