Words: Liam Hathaway
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Julie Estelle, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah
Running time: 150 minutes
Image: Latino Review
Cast your mind back just over a year… you may remember the release of A Good Day To Die Hard – the fifth instalment of the Die Hard franchise. What an unwarranted monstrosity of an action picture that was! After almost entirely augmenting the action picture in 1988 with the original, to then see it dead in the water twenty-five years later – reduced to the usual dismal, soulless, 12A corpse of a movie that the majority of mainstream action pictures had unfortunately become this century – was shattering. But, in actual fact, this did not matter one jot for the people who had seen The Raid: Redemption just months prior, as they were still basking glowingly in the knowledge that someone out there DID still know how to make a decent action movie, and that someone was Welshman Gareth Evans.
The much anticipated sequel kicks off merely a few hours after the events of the first film – having taken down a tower block full of bad guys almost entirely with his bare hands, our protagonist – Rama (Iko Uwais) is immediately thrown back into brutal and treacherous circumstances. With the events of the first film unveiling a level of corruption in his police department, Rama is now coerced into going undercover in order to pervade a merciless crime organisation and lead him to the core of the corruption to protect his wife and child.
With the first Raid essentially being ‘Die Hard with martial-arts’, fans will perhaps be surprised by the scope of this sequel – boasting clear influences from crime-dramas such as Heat, A Bittersweet Life and perhaps even Donnie Brasco, not to mention a run-time which nears two-hours-thirty-minutes! It is a sequel that does not so much expand on the premise of its predecessor, but further eschews it in a different direction entirely. This does mean that the oppressive Assault On Precinct 13-inspired claustrophobia and tension which propelled the first film has been purposefully shed – for The Raid 2 is dead set on not repeating itself in terms of scale and plot – something which befalls so many current action sequels. What is familiar however (and unanimously expected) are the ferocious and protracted fight scenes which have thankfully remained as stunningly impressive as the first feature – resembling the choreography of a blood-soaked rendition of Singin’ In The Rain. With the action taking place outside of narrow corridors, it is now allowed to let loose in the form of a lengthy car chase – one of the film’s most impressive set-pieces.
Tellingly, reality has clearly been heightened up a notch from the first film; the diegesis this film exists in now hints at obvious comic-book elements by occupying elaborate characters that seem to have leapt from the pages of a Frank Miller graphic novel. A crime boss with a limp, a blind female hammer-wielding assassin and a thug who kills with a baseball bat and ball to name but a few. As colourful as these characters sound, they are generally not explored much more than they have been described, whereas in the first film, characters like ‘Mad Dog’ and ‘Tami’ were allowed to come to life with plentiful screen time. Here, such visually striking individuals serve as mere obstacles rather than fleshed-out characters – perhaps The Raid 2 is guilty of sometimes having a little too much ambition when its focus strays from the main narrative thread by spreading itself too thin.
One aspect of the film that has already stirred critics and audiences alike is the ‘increased level of violence in the film’. Close-ups tend to detail the more reprehensive scenes of bodily devastation this time around, and the film warns you of this less than two minutes in as a character had his head blown off his shoulders in close proximity via a 12 gauge. Whether this would deter you as a potential viewer is purely subjective, but the film is classified 18+ for good reason. Later on, the film is wise to interject dots of subtle humour to counteract (what may be for some at this point) the marginally burdensome scenes of violence combined with a hefty run-time.
As a sequel, The Raid 2 is a success – its aim was not solely to top its predecessor, but to apply an actual progressive narrative on top of what already made it an outstanding film and it does so competently. In that sense it’s also exciting to see what Evans may be capable of outside of his usual action-orientated realm. Also, it is refreshing to see such a film keeping it primarily physical as so many (Machete, The Expendables) have resorted in using CGI for effects as simplistic as blood-splatter or bullet ricochets. What ever happened to squibs?! It may be a tad overlong and markedly over-ambitious – but you cannot deem this film as the geriatric, regressive garbage that has sadly become of most contemporary actioners. The Raid series is still flying the flag as the most proficient and exciting action films of the decade.