The Raid 2: Berandal Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Written and Directed by Gareth Evans
2014, 150 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Released on 11th April 2014
Iko Uwais as Rama
Tio Pakusodewo as Bangun
Alex Abbad as Bejo
Yayan Ruhian as Prakoso
Oka Antara as Eka
Julie Estelle as Hammer Girl
Arifin Putra as Uco
The Raid was a huge success. Slick but brutal, it brought the martial arts movie into fresh stylistic territory, showcasing numerous ground-breaking on-screen fight sequences and throwing the spotlight on traditional Indonesian martial art of Silat. In doing so, writer and director Gareth Evans set the bar high for the genre - and for himself.
Let's get one thing straight: The Raid 2: Berandal, the sequel, lives up to the hype. In some ways, it's better than the original. Evans took one of his oldest, pre-The-Raid scripts and turned it into Rama's (the first's protagonist and hero, played by Iko Uwais) next chapter. It sees the butt-kicking rookie cop embark on new duty just hours after the first left off. The Raid's mafia boss Tama and his gang were merely fish in a large pool of corruption, and now, Rama must infiltrate a crime cartel to protect his family and uncover more corruption in the Jakartan police force.
If anyone thought the sequel would (arguably like the first) have little to serve up plot-wise, they were wrong. This is an epic, conventional good-vs-bad thriller narrative, and the whole thing works. There's imminent continuation from The Raid's ending, but the plot ebbs and flows nicely with little reliance on past context. It's not complex, nor is it particularly original, but it's well fleshed out with more characters and heaps more substance. This franchise is no longer simply a spectacle to gape at.
That said, the spectacle part doesn't disappoint either. Action is as expectedly fast, energetic and stimulating as Rama KOs his way through the ranks. There's a handful of long, exquisitely choreographed combat sequences (Evans said the 'kitchen fight' alone took over a month to design and ten days to shoot), one or two which surpass The Raid's gutsy 'Mad Dog' showdown. A few feel slightly drawn out, but some would argue it's their over-the-top mercilessness that bags the effect.
Is the body count higher? We can only guess at 'probably'. But new characters like Hammer Girl bring more fatal blows and blood 'n' guts to the screen this time round. The Jakartan underworld is dark and gritty, but Evans manages to find margin for fun amongst the slum. There's word of extra/deleted scenes for the Blu-ray special features, so look out for more savagery there on release.
Camerawork is sublime, dynamic in racy car chases and group fights, while duly stepping back to let the audience watch it all play out before them. Evans' certainly has a way with making violence arty. Sentimental orchestrations offset against The Raid composer Joe Trapanese's pumping, symphonic score effectively mirror Rama's torn emotions for his family and moral ties.
Narrative progression is overshadowed by a heightened focus on action at times, and that harks back to its two and a half hour running time. But for the most part, it's tight, well-focused and absorbing. Uwais' performance as the family guy / indestructible warrior is deeply intense, and you have to feel for the guy: I felt exhausted just watching him.
Discussing the film at the post-Frightfest-screening Q&A, Edwards mentioned The Raid remake attached to director Patrick Huges, saying (above moans and groans from the crowd): "As long as he gets the same creative freedom as I got, there's no reason it shouldn’t be good." We'll see...
But for now, I'll remain sceptical and channel my excitement to The Raid 3. Yes, it's happening.