April 09, 2014

Raid 2, The

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Raid 2, The

ACTION/THRILLER:

Indonesia/United States, 2014

U.S. Release Date:

2014-04-04

Running Length:

2:30

MPAA Classification:

R (Extreme Violence, Sexual Content, Nudity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah, Julie Estelle

Director:

Gareth Evans

Screenplay:

Gareth Evans

Cinematography:

Matt Flannery, Dimas Imam Subhono

Music:

Aria Prayogi, Joseph Trapanese, Fajar Yuskemal

U.S. Distributor:

Sony Classics

Subtitles:

In Indonesian with English subtitles


Wow. For those with strong constitutions, The Raid 2 offers one of the most intense motion picture experiences available; it may also be the most violent movie ever to be released into theaters. It's somewhat astonishing that writer/director Gareth Evans was able to pass this through the MPAA with only an "R" rating. I have seen "NC-17" films earn their rating with less graphic carnage. The Raid 2 is not for those who quail at images of blood and viscera or who shy away from the sight of two seemingly indestructible men pummeling, cutting, and pounding on each other for lengthy periods. This is an action junkie's fix and it literally pulls no punches.

Evans' 2011 international breakout, The Raid: Redemption, was notable for its relentlessness. With a relatively short 100-minute running length, The Raid: Redemption was lean and mean. The Raid 2 tacks on an addition 50 minutes and it's questionable whether the added 50% is an asset. The sequel has a more complicated narrative and it takes longer for it to find its footing. There are action scenes aplenty in the first 90 minutes but they are perfunctory and at times underwhelming. Evans takes an inordinate amount of time getting the pieces in place but once he does…

BAM! The final 60 minutes of The Raid 2 is something to behold. It's a dizzying, exhausting whirlwind: blood, brains, bullets, baseballs, hammers, and one of the most heart-stopping car chases this side of The French Connection. The fight scene choreography is amazing, whether it's protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais) going up against four bad guys in the back seat of a car, Rama taking on a hammer-wielding martial arts girl (Julie Estelle) and her HBI (Heads Battered In) obsessed boyfriend (Very Tri Yulisman), or Rama against a superior opponent (Donny Alamsyah) in a setting Gordon Ramsay would approve of. There's no CGI to speak of - this is all solidly physical with the only trickery happening in the editing phase.

The Raid 2 starts up a few hours after the conclusion of The Raid: Redemption, with Rama meeting the head of a covert undercover police force and agreeing to work for him. Establishing an identity sends Rama to prison where he earns the trust of Ucok (Arifin Putra), the son of crime lord Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). After being released, Rama goes to work for Bangun as an enforcer but he soon learns that Ucok is chafing under the restraints placed on him by his father. The son wants to take over the business and the sooner, the better. The situation becomes volatile when a would-be boss, Bejo (Alex Abbad), makes seductive promises of glory to Ucok. Rama finds himself in the unenviable position of having to choose between father and son in a possibly blood turf war.

One aspect of The Raid 2 that sets it apart from most generic violent action films is that Evans injects a little art into his mayhem. Especially during the almost serene moments preceding a fracas, his camera focuses on little details. In one scene, where Rama is about to be rushed by dozens of foes, we are shown an image of a slide lock losing its battle to retain its integrity against pressure from outside. Also, although Evans is Welsh, he has chosen to shoot The Raid 2 (like its predecessor) in Indonesian. The distributor's belief that the movie has mainstream appeal will make it one of a select few subtitled films to open in multiplexes.

The Raid 2 has been designed with a specific audience in mind and won't find widespread acceptance outside of it. The extremity of the violence will exceed the comfort level of many viewers and, although there's a cartoonish aspect to it (during the climactic battle, one assumes the combatants have titanium skulls since no amount of cranium-battering can knock them out), it's nevertheless bloody and graphic. Next to Evans, directors like Scorsese and Tarantino seem almost old-fashioned. A bigger complaint relates to the pacing - the first half is uneven and overburdened by a narrative that isn't as compelling as the filmmakers believe it to be. The last hour, however, reduces such issues to near irrelevance. When The Raid 2 hits its stride, it takes no prisoners.

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