Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movie Review: The Raid 2

The Raid 2
Directed by: Gareth Evans.
Written by: Gareth Evans.
Starring: Iko Uwais (Rama / Yuda ), Arifin Putra (Uco), Oka Antara (Eka), Tio Pakusodewo (Bangun), Alex Abbad (Bejo), Julie Estelle (Alicia / Hammer Girl), Ryûhei Matsuda (Keiichi),  Ken'ichi Endô (Goto), Kazuki Kitamura (Ryuichi), Cecep Arif Rahman (The Assassin), Cok Simbara (Bunawar), Yayan Ruhian (Mad Prakoso), Very Tri Yulisman (Baseball Bat Man), Roy Marten (Reza).

The first Raid movie was 100 minutes, and I would bet than approximately 90 of those was all out action, and only 10 had anything to do with traditional storytelling, narrative structure or character development. The entire movie can essentially be summed up with a simple, one line description – A SWAT team needs to fight its way to the top floor of an apartment building where all the tenants want to kill them. That’s all, pretty much, of the movie’s plot – sure there’s some stuff about the lead and his brother on the opposite side of the law – but it was clear right away that writer-director Gareth Evans is far more interested in staging violent, hand-to-hand combat fight sequences as well as gunfights and other forms of extreme violence. Amazingly, the movie worked brilliantly well for the most part. Sure, it started to get a little repetitive near the end of the film, but the fight sequences were the best of their kind that I had seen in a movie in years, and the film, was mainly extremely entertaining from beginning to end. The sequel probably has the same amount of action in it as the original did – but is 50 minutes longer, making it two and half hours long – and spends most of that time telling a story that is somehow both too simple (in that it’s predictable) and too complex (in that it isn’t always clear what the hell is happening in the story). Yet I didn’t really care that much. Evans and his crew have upped the ante considerably in terms of the action – opening the film up from one location to many, and having larger scale action sequences that are even more impressive, more blood soaked, more brutal and more thrilling than the original film – which I wasn’t sure was possible. The plot may be a warmed over version of The Departed (which was a remake itself) – but who the hell cares when you have action like this.

The film picks up just two hours after the original film ended – with the lone surviving police officer, Rama (Iko Uwais) turning over the tapes his gangster brother gave him to an anti-corruption task force. They inform him that because of what he did in that building, his life is in danger, so they need him to go undercover (which makes no sense at all, because if his life is in danger, than the bad guys must know who he is, so going undercover wouldn’t work – but whatever) – and so they want to send him to prison, where he can grow close to Uco (Arifin Putra), the son and heir apparent of a crime boss named Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). Uco is scheming with Bejo (Alex Abbad), a man who has worked his way up from nothing, to start a gang war with a Japanese gang run by Goto (Ken'ichi Endô) and his son Keiichi (Ryûhei Matsuda). Amazingly, the task force Rama works for doesn’t really seem to give a shit about all the murders these two gangs do, because Rama hasn’t uncovered enough police corruption for their liking. I could go on about the plot – including sibling assassins, the brother who kills people by hitting a baseball at them really hard, and the sister, who is also deaf, who uses the far less innovative double hammer method, and another assassin who looks like a homeless man, but I really don’t think I could if I wanted to. Evans clearly heard the complaints from some critics that the first film had no plot, and decided the sequel needed too much plot.

I don’t know why Evans bothered with all that plot, because the reason everyone is going to go see a sequel to The Raid is to see it because they want to see mind bogglingly action – and The Raid 2 delivers all that in spades. From a mud covered prison riot to a brilliantly staged car chase, to the gang warfare which features all kinds of great martial arts sequences (including a brilliant one on the subway with Hammergirl) to any number of other gunfights and martial arts sequences, including a wonderful 30 minutes finale, which is essentially the first movie condensed to less than a third of its runtime, as Rama once again has to fight his way through one wave of gangster after another to get to the people he really wants, every action sequence in The Raid 2 is brilliant, bloody, violent and entertaining. The filmmakers wanted these scenes to be bigger and better than in the original film, and they succeeded in that regard. Perhaps all the additional plot scenes help to simply give the audience a break from all that brutality. I cannot imagine anyone who liked The Raid not liking The Raid 2. It’s basically the first film on crack. So if you’re like me, and found the original entertaining and brilliantly well staged, than you’ll like this one. If you agreed with Roger Ebert – who hated the film, and described it as little more than loud, incoherent video game, well, you’ve been warned.

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