Director: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Alex Abbad
Length: 150 minutes.
If you saw the Raid 1 and liked what you saw, there will only be one reason that you want to see the sequel, and it won’t be for the plot or any philosophical crises that that film may have evoked in you; you want action. The original film boasted some of the best action sequences and choreography taken to the silver screen in many years and did not take long to become a highly sought after title among action aficionados. With high production values, intense action and a simplistic yet intriguing plot line, the series was poised to go far. Fortunately The Raid 2 delivers on all the promises from the original while also expanding the plot line into a city-wide crime thriller.
The action here is just as intense as we have come to expect from this crew. Iko Uwaise and the hordes of extras that he slaughters on his way through the film have created incredible action sequences and fight choreography, even going so far as to surpass the action that we saw in the first film, which is no small feat. The creativity visible is impressive at worst and all sequences manage to be exciting and distinctive. It is clear that Gareth Evans has been working on the script of this film for several years due to the large amount of set pieces and scenarios that we are treated to. Naturally though for a viewer, this vaguely translates into skimming along the spectrum of ways of brutally killing people and as such this film is not at all for the faint of heart. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if this film made it all the way through 2014 without being removed from the top of the year’s ‘most violent’ pile. Though to take that as a negative would be remiss; Evans knows his audience and he knows what made his previous film popular. He is merely upping the ante, no matter how uncomfortable it makes his viewers. As a result of this, there is an almost tangible increase in tension for the audience as just viewing the film could become difficult due to the actions on screen. I lost count of the amount of times that I winced. The action sequences are aided by fantastic sound design and a well designed soundtrack, designed to get the viewers heart pumping with heavy bass and drums, and also allowing us to key into the thoughts and emotions of the characters, even when they’re currently tied up in a fight to the death.
Unfortunately, other expansions made by Evans only serve to weigh the film down. The overarching plot of the movie, to do with infiltrating a gang and exposing the corrupt cops with whom those gangs make their dealings, becomes mired within itself. The amount of factions at play here, many of which seem to serve no purpose, obscures what’s really going on. Characters that were very important at the start of the movie vanish, only to appear again at the end, two hours later. Other characters are given back story and are then killed five minutes later, stripping that increased connection with the viewer of any payoff. It all comes down to the plot being cluttered and needing to be tidied up which is a shame because the underlying plot threads taken separately would all be effective on their own but put them all together and they become muddled and confused.
Of course, if you’re a Raid fan, you’re a Raid fan no matter what and this film will deliver what you are after in spades. Outside of the aforementioned storytelling issues and a slow middle section, the film comes out on top and remains extremely watchable. While the film may be criticized for being brainless, it shows Evan’s ambition for his film making and if this is what he’s coming out with now, I for one am very excited for what he can bring us next. Even then, brainless is just what you need sometimes, right?