Rama goes undercover to go deeper into the criminal underground.
Back in 2012, Welsh director Gareth Evans took the weary action genre and elbow slammed it into a new era with Indonesian flick The Raid. With a single location and concentrated carnage, it was one of the most incredible movie experiences I’ve ever had.
There was always going to be a lot of pressure on Evans for his follow up, and The Raid 2 leaps off right from where the previous film ended, serving up set pieces aplenty while also pushing the movie in a different genre direction than you might expect.
The Raid 2: Berandal – to use its full title – is really more of a gangster epic than a regular action movie. The influence of movies like Infernal Affairs looms large in its construction, the multiple rival factions and the sprawling storyline and varying betrayals.
It is heavily indebted to this style of film but the story itself is utterly generic. Evans screenplay apes phrases and exchanges so closely that it almost feels like it was made from some kind of do it yourself crime movie kit. There are no surprises, no great characters and way too much dull talking during the ridiculous 150 minute running time.
It’s an overly ambitious film in many ways, with Evans so intent on making his epic that he doesn’t really care if his writing skills, or the budget, are really up to the challenge. And, quite honestly, I was monumentally bored for some of the running time.
But really you’re all here for the action – surely that makes up for any other shortcomings? Well yes, with some caveats. There are more than a dozen set pieces in The Raid 2, with a real attempt to make every fight, chase or gun battle somewhat unique and in a different style to the last.
That’s quite an achievement and, together with Evans’ continuing commitment to detailed brutality, makes for moments that are both crowd pleasing and genuinely thrilling. The mud fight with its whirling camera and high stakes is a joy, as is the introduction of both Baseball Bat man and Hammer Girl. And the film closes with nigh on 20 minutes of rarefied slaughter that will take your breath away.
But for every awesome action moment there’s one that doesn’t quite connect – like the frenetic but slightly cheap looking car chase or a lengthy knife fight during the finale. There’s also a real glut of characters which makes some of the scenes less effective. We’ve only just met Yayan Ruhian’s hired killer when he’s suddenly in danger and I honestly didn’t know why I should care whether he lives or dies.
The same goes for Iko Uwais’ Rama, who is off screen for a curious amount of the movie in favour of building up the rest of the world. And his misdeeds aren’t significantly more rosy than the rest of the cast, making this revenge tale a little arbitrary in the final analysis.
But look – let’s be honest there. There’s great action in The Raid 2, with enough wince inducing moments to keep your brain on board and the constant promise of another well staged scene of zany ultraviolence. But there’s also a lot of downtime and minutes spent furthering a fairly dull story, with each clichéd moment lessening the overall impact of those exquisite kills.
An over-reaching sequel then. But action fans should lavish attention on ever genre offering they can get.