16th Apr2014

‘The Raid 2: Berandal’ Review

by Dan Clark

Stars: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra, Julie Estelle, Donny Alamsyah, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, Tio Pakusodewo | Written and Directed by Gareth Evans

The-Raid-2

In 2012 Gareth Evans burst onto the scene with The Raid: Redemption. He took a simple concept and filled it with some of the most engaging and inventive action seen in years. Now two years later he is back at again to prove it was not a fluke. The Raid 2 shows Evans has a knack for pushing the boundaries of cinematic action.  With a larger budget behind him, he ups the scale of each set-piece without hindering his cleverness. Breaking away from the simple concept of the original does lead to an overly plotting story that gets lost in its own elaborate setup. Still, any fan of the original or any fan of action would be doing themselves a huge disservice if they do not experience what The Raid 2  has to offer.

The story picks up a few hours after the first Raid concludes. Rama (Iko Uwais) is chosen for a grueling undercover operation that will finally help bring down the corruption of the police force. He is sent to climb up the ladder of the criminal underworld and to gain the trust of the men who are secretly ruling his country. Rama soon discovers his mission will be even more treacherous then he first imagined as a power struggle begins inside one of the most notorious crime families with Rama stuck squarely in the middle.

The Raid: Redemption had a plot that was as simplistic as point and shoot. Taking the idea of invading a building and expanding it into a full length feature film had its benefits. Having a minute scope was helpful in focusing its aim to only include what is vital. Broadening that aim does allow for a more expansive storyline, and while the plotlines are by no means groundbreaking they do go more in-depth into the inner workings of this world. The issue becomes a complete lack of focus. Most of the undercover narrative is lost halfway through the movie, as the story of a reckless son usurping power from his authoritative father takes center stage. Much of the progression becomes a group of subplots loosely tied together. While this gives reasoning behind much of the action, it also bogs the film down on multiple occasions. Instead of getting you to invest further into the characters it has you wishing for things to pick up.

A vast array of characters are created, many of which are defined by their weapon of choice or choice of clothing—yielding such names as Baseball Bat Man and Hammer Girl. What they lack in character traits they make up for in pure kicking to the face ability. Sure these characters are fun and have some of the best fight scenes in the film. (Hammer Girl’s subway skirmish was one of the bigger standouts) They also provide a contradiction to the film’s tone. One moment it is attempting to be a Johnnie To esc crime thriller the next it exists in a comic book world with over-the-top characters. This tonal shift was not overly jarring to the point of confusion, however it made any attempt to be serious come off as unnecessary.

At the end of the day what makes or breaks the success of The Raid 2  is the quality of its action. The combination of Gareth Evans’s ingenuity, a bigger budget, and a clear lack of safety regulations yielded action like you have literally never seen before. It is quickly evident people put their bodies on the line for the benefit of the film. Often when it comes to martial arts films the action can become repetitive to the point of numbness. Evans avoided that issue by provided a vast array of set pieces—from one of the best car chases in years to a mud pit brawl to classic martial arts showdowns. Right when you feel it has reached its apex it would top itself once again.

Gareth Evans may not have succeeded at topping the overall quality of his previous effort, but he did show he has an understanding for action like no one else today. It is easy to simply marvel at the craftsmanship of what he created. His use of the camera becomes as vital to the action as the men and women throwing the punches. By the time the film concludes you will awe at the feat you experienced. Evans does need to learn help is not always a bad thing. He wore many hats including writer, director, and editor.  A one hundred and fifty minute running time shows editing may not be his forte. Luckily the sheer excitement of The Raid 2: Berandal makes up for most of its major faults. Unquestionably this will be one of, if the best action movie of this year.

**** 4/5

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