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The Raid 2 | reviews, news & interviews

The Raid 2

The Raid 2

Gareth Evans delivers a fiercely exciting, expansive sequel

Mud, mud, glorious mud: Iko Uwais and friend in 'The Raid 2'

After reinvigorating the actioner in 2011 with The Raid and its furious flurry of feet and fists, what next for the obscenely talented Welsh writer-director Gareth Evans? More of the same? Well, not quite. The sequel widens its net and extends its running-time, taking the action from a Jakarta tower block to the city's streets and dividing its time between the gangs competing for control of the city.

Returning are Evans' martial arts muse Iko Uwais (with whom this marks his third collaboration) and the almost embarrassingly exciting ultra-violence.

Just as computer games have evolved their beat-em-ups from scrolling to sprawling, so The Raid 2 expands on the original's simple ascent to the boss by presenting instead an epic trawl through a murky world of dodgy deals and precarious pacts, punctuated by explosive bursts of eye-bulgingly violent but immaculately staged action – the money sequences in effect. The sequel's opening scenes feature the execution of more than one of The Raid's key characters  – a brutal signal that we're starting afresh, and that no-one is safe. Yet we're still with Rama (Uwais), rookie police officer and bad-ass fighter (a specialist, you might remember, in the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat). And this time he's going undercover to root out police corruption.

In a show of his extraordinary commitment to the cause Rama agrees to assume the guise of a street thug and allows himself to be imprisoned in order to ingratiate himself to fellow inmate Ucok (an effectively slippery Arifin Putra, pictured below right) - the insecure and hot-tempered son of the city's aging top dog Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). Bangun is a Vito Corleone-type boss who's tiring of violent rivalries and, these days, is more interested in being respected than feared.

Bangun has a long-term alliance with the city's other key player, the Japanese boss Goto (Ken'ichi Endô). Also in play from the get-go  – and looking to drive a wedge between the men – is the ambitious Bejo (Alex Abbad), a sinister sporter of the trench-coat, walking stick and dark glasses look, one of many clues to his evil intent. And confusingly The Raid 2 seems to resurrect one of the first film's key bad-guys Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), yet here he's actually playing a different character  – Prakoso, a loyal disciple of Bangun's who's given a cursory and not terrifically credible back-story.

The Raid 2 began life under the title "Berandal" (the Indonesian word for thug or gangster and the film's subtitle in some territories). It was actually conceived by Evans before the first instalment and has been adapted to work as a sequel to The Raid. In contrast to many of his peers  – and perhaps because he takes charge of this aspect of his films too  – Evans doesn't edit his action into oblivion in order to create a frenzied momentum; he wants you to experience (and frankly to enjoy) every bone-cracking thwack.

Evans' directorial technique is often ingenious but largely performer-led (with so much talent onboard there's little need for him to ramp up the excitement independently). With the fighters themselves setting the furious rhythm and dictating camera-movement, you could argue that it is they who really astonish. Action cinema is often inaccurately described as a "ride" but this is the real deal. The effect is thrilling, tumultuous even, but not disorientating; we're whipped into the air, following the trajectory of a blow and find ourselves smashing through a window to keep apace with the fisticuffs.

And unlike so many of its Hollywood actioner counterparts there's plenty of variety  – from the onslaught of opponents who pile into a single toilet cubicle to Evans' first, rivetingly rendered car chase, to the mud-soaked scrappiness of the prison courtyard fight which pits 100 prisoners against each other and 50 guards. If the first film was hardly rooted in reality with its body-count and the apparent invincibility of its hero, the second sends any pretence at realism hurtling off a top floor balcony. The increasingly fantastical approach is epitomised by the introduction of Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man (Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman, pictured above left), flamboyant Tarantino-esque henchpeople.

You may miss the tight focus and unparalleled urgency of the original and Evans' forte is undeniably action and visuals, rather than dialogue, exposition or characterisation. However, he does a largely satisfactory job on these fronts, never allowing the pace to slacken detrimentally, and he's to be applauded for his ambition and ability to charge things up. There will be some who will be mortified that a film can be this shamelessly violent, but The Raid 2's balletically choreographed action is so impressively executed and filmed with such aplomb that it will take your breath away even if it turns your stomach. This is one film that, despite the controversy of its content, truly puts the art in martial arts.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Raid 2

It will take your breath away even if it turns your stomach


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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