Starring: Iko Uwais (The Raid), Arifin Putra, Oka Antara (V/H/S 2), Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad (Merentau)
Writer/Director: Gareth Evans (The Raid)
Runtime: 2 hours 30 minutes
Release Date: 28 March (US), 11 April (UK)
The Raid was an espresso shot of a movie: fast, frantic and full of energy. It contains some of the best fight sequences in recent memory and puts most Hollywood action films to shame. How the hell are they going to top that? Well, Gareth Evans has returned to try and do just that with The Raid 2. Has the impossible been accomplished or was this fight over before it even started?
The film picks up right where the first one left off but quickly resolves the loose ends and throws Rama (Uwais) into a new story. Whilst the first film had a very basic plot that was mainly there as something to connect a series of increasingly badass fights, The Raid 2 has much more of a story which works to both its advantage and disadvantage. On the good side, this gives the film much more of a backbone to build on than just “police go into building and sh*t hits the fan” and allows the filmmakers to explore a wider variety of locations and situations. On the other side, the plot isn’t anything that special. It’s your basic undercover cop story full of betrayal, warring factions and greed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the first film’s plot wasn’t anything to write home about either, but it didn’t spend nearly as much time on it. The film’s second act is a bit of a drag as it becomes more involved in the dealings and politics of the warring gangs which isn’t that interesting; action beats become more sparse and Rama is pushed out of sight for a long stretch. It’s during this period that the film’s extensive running time begins to take its toll.
But right when it starts to get frustrating, the third act kicks in and…holy sh*t! That long period of waiting for something to happen becomes totally worth it and the movie goes from 0 to 100mph in no time flat. The preceding actions scenes were fun and cool to watch, but nothing can prepare you for the sheer awesomeness of the last hour or so of The Raid 2. Punches are thrown, guns are shot, sharp objects are swung, pints of blood are spilt and pretty much every bone in the body gets broken at some point. The film even expands its scope by adding a car chase into the mix and excels at that too, combining vehicular mayhem and fisticuffs into one huge ball of F*CK YEAH! All of this wonderful action spectacle is shot and cut to perfection, never allowing a single moment to drag or become incomprehensible. Considering how many fight scenes take place in such tight quarters as toilet stalls or the back seat of a moving car, it again calls into question how huge blockbusters with ten times the budget of this film keep messing it up. I won’t go into any more detail about the fight scenes but trust me on this. By the end of this film, you’ll have completely forgotten about the dry spell in the middle.
The Raid 2 is an impressive feat of action cinema and one that is sure to go down in the annals of the genre as a defining moment. I won’t say it’s better than the original as the dry middle section of the movie is a big demerit against it, but get past that and anyone with a love for action will be smiling with depraved glee at what this film has in store. A third instalment seems inevitable, and I can’t wait to see what Evans and co have in store for us next.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10