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The Raid 2 | Film Review

Find out what we thought of the sequel to one of the best action films ever, The Raid 2

When The Raid came out in 2011, it blew everyone away. It introduced the world to mixed martial arts concocted by a team of Indonesian professionals and a crazy Welsh director. Gareth Evans was a trend setter in slowing down the editing; crafting long, single-shot sequences of his leading man, Iko Uwais, performing a brutal ballet of destruction with various faceless thugs in a tower block ruled by a drug overlord. It redefined the term “corridor scene” and was a game changer. Hollywood stood up and took notice (an American remake is already in the works) and a sequel was immediately rushed into production.

Evans had previously penned a script that he had tried to develop after his debut, Merantau, but didn’t have enough budget or scope to produce. They even made a trailer for it, but eventually the project fell through. Instead he filmed The Raid on a shoestring budget of just over £1m with his crew from Merantau and the intention to link it to his original story if it was a success. Thankfully it was.

It is abundantly clear from the very few frames of The Raid 2 that the production is of an infinitely higher quality. Evans was given four times the funds previously available and this is apparent in the lighting, sets and cinematography. They are able to cast off the restrictive shackles of the first film’s setting and spread across the whole of the Jakartan gang underground. This does have a potentially negative effect though because the first films gritty, dirty and claustrophobic characteristics were what gave it an edge and the question was would this now be able transfer to something much larger?

This is answered with a resounding yes and Evans does toy with the idea of huge fight scenes and sweeping shots. An early prison brawl and a late on warehouse scrap are examples of this, where Evans is given licence to roam and focus on multiple fights within the same shot. A spectacular car chase is also a highlight with the action not just taking place between the pursuing cars, but inside the back seats as well. Ultimately though Evans knows what we came for and the film is at its very best in the final act when the action is back to the man-on-man, fist-on-fist in a confined corridor.

The story takes place two hours after the first movie and has Rama (Uwais) being asked to go undercover and infiltrate the Bangun crime family to weed out corruption in the police force. This evokes comparisons with the great Infernal Affairs and initially has Rama serving time for two years in order to build a relationship with the Mafioso’s son, Uco (Arifin Putra). This escalates as Rama becomes an enforcer for the mob and the film moves away from the action and into gangster territory. Again this genre change could have hurt the film, but it actually improves it with Evans appeasing the only criticism of his first movie, the lack of storyline. Although not exactly ground-breaking, it is perfectly paced with enough time between the fights to keep us not just interested, but gripped throughout its 150 minute running time.

Given the substantial film length the fight scenes are sparse in the early stages, but the last half an hour more than makes up for it and is worth the wait. Two assassins and siblings Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man are straight out of a comic book with their weapons and gimmicks, but are perfect for the style and frantic nature of The Raid. The inevitable three-way fight scene between Rama and these two is possibly the best scene from the series. The characters are the same kind of computer game end-of-level boss style bad guys that Rama contends with in The Raid. In fact Yayan Ruhain who played the main antagonist, Mad Dog, in the first film makes an appearance this time round as well, albeit as a different player.

The violence obviously needs to be addressed and like the first film, both the skull-crushing savagery and inventive genius of the choreography is phenomenal, with not a single prop or part of scenery off limits. Similarly to the recent controversies with the ultra-violence in Kick-Ass, the fighting is at times so relentless that it becomes almost cartoonish and induces laughter. At other times it is incredibly blasé. A business meeting between Uco and a potential partner where throats are unflinchingly slit is perhaps one of the most barbaric and cold-blooded scenes ever witnessed.

Evans has spoken of interest in making a third and final film and the sprawling nature of the second does also imply that Rama will be returning, contradicting what he says before the fade to black. With The Raid 2 an improvement in every way on its predecessor, Evans will have his work cut out because not only has he made one of the best action films of all time, but a candidate for greatest movie sequel ever; up there with Godfather Part 2, Aliens and The Dark Knight. In filmmaking there can be no higher achievement than that.

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