When The Raid: Redemption first burst onto screens in 2011, no one was prepared for the glorious symphony of violence that they were about to witness. Countless shattered bones and brutalised bodies later, it was clear that the action genre had a new handler: Gareth Evans. The Welsh-born director was hired to make a documentary on pencak silat, the term for Indonesian Martial Arts, after being noticed with his first film, Footsteps (2006). While visiting a particular silat school, Evans’ eye was caught by the talents of Iko Uwais. A partnership was born, and Uwais was set to become a worldwide action star. Their first film together was the actioner Merantau (2009). When that quickly became a cult hit, Evans and his producers started developing a much more ambitious film, which was also set to star Uwais. Unfortunately, the film was way too ambitious at the time and a lack of funds failed to get the project off the ground. Evans quickly developed a smaller project that wouldn’t need a big budget, and The Raid was born. So, what happened to that aforementioned ambitious film? Say hello to The Raid 2, also known as The Raid 2: Berandal.
Uwais’ Rama is one tough man. He obviously doesn’t need much time recovering after the war that took place in that goon-filled apartment building; the sequel begins just two hours after the first film’s finale. This time, our one-man army must go undercover in order to get to the corrupt leaders at the top of this criminal food chain. Rama, going undercover in prison as a criminal named Yuda, must gain the trust of Uco, the son of a gang kingpin. Of course, you don’t have to wait long before it all hits the fan. And when it does, well, let’s just say that you’ll be hopeful you don’t have an undiscovered heart condition.
The sequel doesn’t just raise the bar – it shatters it. With a much bigger plot, The Raid 2 delivers bigger and more intricate action sequences as well as varied locations, whereas the first film was confined to an apartment complex. The prison fight, the train fight, the car chase, the kitchen fight – all examples of scenes that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. The kinetic action unfolds beautifully, with no second wasted and no battle left without being well and truly juiced. Gladly, it doesn’t come with much useless fluff or unnecessary subplots either, but there are some slower emotional moments (breathers) with Rama, which serves to give the character that little bit more depth.
Evans knows action, let’s just lock that in firmly, shall we? His dynamic direction of the film’s brutality is wondrous to witness, and his cinematographers, Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono, compliment his eye perfectly. There’s a choreography here that goes way above the gobsmacking displays of martial arts. The camera shots and the editing (by Evans himself) beautifully straddle the line between style and purpose. It’s all slick and breathlessly energetic, but unlike so many action films released these days, things are kept clear enough to ensure that we can keep up with who is hitting who.
Another thing that places this film on an – arguably – higher mantelpiece than the first, is the creativity placed on villains. The two main assassins, Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman), were great characters. To be honest, they didn’t have much else to them except for being able to kick some serious ass and cause massive damage with simple household items, but they work perfectly within the tone of the film. You know that Rama will have to take these two down, and there’s no disappointment to be found in the ridiculously entertaining finale. It’s very fulfilling seeing them finally meet their match.
Also worthy of a mention is Arifin Putra, who did a good job as the spoilt self-serving son of an extremely powerful mobster, fully believable as his character goes down a dark path, and Alex Abbad, who gives a good performance as a gangster manipulating his rise to power.
At the end of the day, this is another outstanding vehicle for Uwais to show off his talents. There’s no question the actor punches, kicks, stabs and shoots like a pro, but it’s great to have an action star like this that can also be likeable and natural on-screen. Uwais makes it easy to become invested in his character, bringing a certain gravitas to this exaggerated reality.
There aren’t many films that have the audience enthralled to the point of applause, over and over again. There’s a deranged type of excitement that arises as you watch some of these inspired action sequences. The car chase, complete with an elongated fight with Rama and four thugs in the small space of a car, is a doozy to behold. There’s no denying how violent and giddily graphic The Raid 2 is, but a strange sort of beauty arises with the obvious care placed in each creative battle. At times, this feels as though you are witnessing a brand new type of action.
Without giving away any details, the ending allows for a third film, which Evans will direct. The Raid 3 can’t get here soon enough. Believe the hype, this is an action-film for the ages.
THE REEL SCORE: 10/10