Review by-Jarrett Leahy
After barely escaping with his life following the first raid, rookie police officer Rama reluctantly agrees, in exchange for protection of his wife and family, to join a special police force charged with taking down the crime syndicates and corrupt officers plaguing the streets of Jakarta. Sent undercover in one of city’s worst prisons, Rama befriends Uco, the son of crime lord Bangun. As Rama gets deeper into this underworld of corruption and greed, he discovers that Uco’s insatiable desire for respect and power has put him on a path of destruction and betrayal that threatens the tenuous peace accord these powerful crime cartels have been living under.
If I were to ask you to think of the place that you would consider to be a hotbed for kung fu cinema, I would imagine that very few of you would you chose Indonesia. And how would react if I told you that a 6’7” Welshman from the UK is currently the master of Kung-fu genre? As unlikely as both of those scenarios are, in less than five years, writer/director Gareth Evans has combined his incredible talents as a filmmaker with those offered by a plethora of skilled martial artists he discovered during his time in Indonesia, to give us two of the most ferocious and energetic additions to the action genre.
Iko Uwais, a thirty one-year-old, former Indonesian martial arts National Champion, was discovered by Evans back in 2007 when he visited Iko’s martial arts school while film the documentary, The Mystic Arts of Indonesia: Pencak Silat. Impressed with the immense talents Iko possessed, Evans convinced Uwais to come work for him and his movie production company as an actor, stuntman, and fight choreographer. After mild success starring in Evans’ 2009 film, Merantau, Uwais and his incredible martial arts skills were thrust into the spotlight with the unexpected success of the first Raid film upon its release back in 2011. Reprising his role of Rama, The Raid 2 is yet another forum to highlight Uwais’ impressive artistry. Like a professional dancer whose partners are knives and bats, Uwais’ speed and kinesthetic control rivals that of any of his martial arts predecessors. After the critical success of this latest effort, I foresee Uwais becoming the next great Asian action star.
Even with prior knowledge and experience with the first film, I must admit at times it was a bit difficult to keep all the warring parties and alliances straight. Surprisingly however, I found this only added to my enjoyment of the film because it forced me to pay closer attention to film’s narrative instead of just the action sequences. While trying to describe the general gist of the film to Jason, I texted this Godfather comparison that I think may help some better understand the dynamic of the film’s betrayal (if you don’t have any experience with The Godfather, please bare with me for a moment). Imagine Fredo Corleone joining forces with Virgil Sollozzo to start an inter-family war and attempt a coup de grace on Don Vito, and then add a mole cop and bunch of bloody kung fu action.
My praise and recommendation of The Raid 2 comes with a very stern admonition: this film is not for the faint of heart. The level and intensity of the violence depicted is some the most extreme and graphically severe you’ll see on screen. Blood, guts, limbs snapped, and that’s only the first two hours. The last 25 minutes unleashes an even more fierce climax with physical encounters that far exceed what would normally be deemed humanly possible. This movie makes the violence depicted in say Tarantino’s Kill Bill feel like an entertaining stroll through the park.
With that warning out of the way, in the confines of the Kung fu genre of action films, filmmaker Gareth Evans did the near impossible, skillfully crafting an intricately detailed ballet of carnage and mayhem that not only adds to cult status of his first effort, but far exceeds it by leaps and bounds. The original The Raid sacrificed some of its plot diversity and complexity in order to deliver an unrelenting action extravaganza that dazzled the eyes. With The Raid 2, Evans built on the limited storyline of the first film, evolving and unleashing an entertainingly multi-layered underworld story involving multiple crime families and unthinkable betrayal brought on by the hunger for power. This deft combination of story and action makes The Raid 2 a much more hair-raising and rousing spectacle that, by the end, will leave you in an awed state of amazement.-JL