…just when you think you’ve seen it all.
You’re going to need a full body cast after watching this film. It’s been a week since I saw it, and I still need crutches.
The Raid 2 picks up very shortly after it’s 2012 predecessor ends. Police Officer Rama (Iko Uwais) is forced into an undercover mission infiltrating two rival crime families that compels him to leave his family, change his identity, and even go to jail. While in jail, he befriends Uco (Arifin Putra), the arrogant, trigger happy son of Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), one of the feared patriarchs in question. Once Rama and Uco are freed, everything devolves into an orgy betrayal, broken bones, and bullets.
I was not a fan of the original Raid. The derivative characters and simple to a fault screenplay ultimately made the film feel stiff. With that said, I went into this one with an open mind. After all, I did find the brutal, extended action sequences to be wonderfully orchestrated by returning director Gareth Evans, and this film’s overwhelmingly positive reception led me to believe that my complaints would be addressed.
Man…were they ever…
This is one of the best action films in recent years. It not only manages to top the original’s sheer overwhelming brutality and choreography, but also provides a compelling story to go along with it. Don’t misconstrue me here, this is nothing you haven’t seen before, but there is a considerable and admirable effort to create something compelling. The characters are much more colorful this time around, particularly Uco. Arifin Putra does a wonderful job conveying the madness that comes from entitlement, while never losing the characters ultimately self conscious center. The villains are truly detestable, and the violence feels like it has consequence, which makes it all the easier for us to root for Rama (despite his blandness…but more on that later.)
With that said, let’s face it, the story is not the focus of The Raid 2. That distinction goes to the fights, and my god, are they something to behold. Gareth Evans understands action far deeper then most other hollywood directors can even dream of. Every fight has an incredible sense of scale, even if it is just a one on one matchup. No part of the space is spared, everything is a weapon, and by the end of most sequences, there is not much of anything left, particularly in a final showdown in a kitchen that might be the greatest fight sequence ever put on film. Not one second of these sequences feels cheated, and for the most part, they aren’t. These actors are actually making contact (albeit not as hard as they are portraying) with each other, and it shows. This is really where The Raid 2 becomes a piece of true art. Not only are these scenes fantastic on a visceral level, but they all serve the story, and there’s enough verity to where it never gets boring.
There is really only one major problem with this film, and that is Rama himself. Iko Uwais is an absolutely spectacular physical performer, but as an actor, he certainly needs work. Family back home aside, I could not tell you one thing about this guy. He really doesn’t have much of a personality, and ultimately feels like a conduit to get us from one action sequence to the next. It doesn’t cripple the film, but it certainly does make it slightly harder to invest in.
Minor quibbles aside, this is a spectacular piece of work, and a massive improvement over the original. The effort to actually tell a story this time is greatly appreciated, and this coupled with some of the most unstoppably awesome action sequences you will ever see, makes for a two and a half hour roller coaster ride that never stalls for a moment.
Sorry Cap. Rama could totally kick your ass.