Wowww-e! That’s probably the adrenaline talking but nevertheless, The Raid 2 is virtuoso filmmaking. It comes at you like a sucker punch to the gut and keeps going at you relentlessly for the next 149 minutes. Yes, this is one really long movie but it zips by on pure testosterone. Hell, it nearly gave me an anxiety attack! Welsh-born filmmaker Gareth Evans, who pulls triple duty as director, screenwriter and editor of this Indonesian-language film, one ups his already over-the-top predecessor from 2011. But while The Raid took place in a single, controlled setting, The Raid 2 (or The Raid: Berndhal as it is known internationally) is a sprawling, far more ambitious work. If The Raid was the franchise’s Alien, then this is Aliens 2 i.e. a different kind of beast but just as impressive.
Picking up right where the previous film left off, The Raid 2 finds our hero Rama (Iko Uwais) sent undercover to infiltrate an Indonesian crime syndicate in hopes to weed out the corrupt cops who are being paid off by them. But his mission turns out to be more complicated when he gets involved with the crime boss’s power-hungry son (Arifin Putra). If the beats of the plot seem derivative, it’s because they are. But let’s face it… it’s the fights that are the main attraction, not the plot. And man, they’re a doozy! Functioning as power-ups in a video game, they give the film a shot of fire. They’re kinetic, vicious but also poetic. The athleticism on display is beyond astounding. The fight choreography is staggering! Turn off the sound on this movie and the fight scenes will likely have the same impact.
Sticking with the video game analogy, this might be the best video game movie not based on a video game ever made. And that’s not a slam. Each action set-piece is more dangerous, complex and sustained than the one that precedes it. The settings for the fights also get more creative as the film progresses. They take place in locations as varied as a bathroom stall, a metro train car, a kitchen, a muddy compound, a nightclub and even inside a car. I’d rate The Raid 2 as the one of the most impressive action films ever made but the plot and characters are too thin and too under-developed to warrant that. Still, as a demonstration of pure technical prowess, it gets my enthusiastic approval.
Editor: Gareth Evans
Cinematographer:Aria Prayogi, Joseph Trapanese, Fajar Yuskemal
Music: Matt Flannery, Dimas Imam Subhono
Running time: 150 minutes
Companies: Sony Pictures Classics
Rating: R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language