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The Raid 2 | The Clapper Bored

The Raid 2

I’ve made no secret of my feelings about The Raid. I felt it was the most viscerally appealing action movie I’ve ever seen (and I say that as someone who cannot resist giving action movies 2*s) as well as a beautifully crafted movie. So, understandably, I’ve been following the progress of The Raid 2 for some time, with my anticipation ramping up with the release of each explosive trailer. Finally, having seen The Raid 2 I can confidently say that all of the positive qualities of The Raid – imaginative choreography, real physical impact, single-minded protagonist – have been stretched onto a much larger canvas. If people felt like The Raid was, perhaps, too simple a set-up, then they’ll have no such complaints with the labyrinthine crime drama that is The Raid 2. Oh, and it’s probably worth mentioning in the opening paragraph: this is one of the most violent films ever made.

If The Raid set a low bar and smashed it, The Raid 2 sets the bar infinitely higher and has to spend more time strategizing about how to break through it. Explaining the film’s plot would take too long, so here’s the simple set-up: taking up immediately where the previous film left off, Rama ends up undercover in prison and then working for a mob moss. The film owes something to Infernal Affairs in the martial-arts-mole influences, but, weirdly, the film it was most reminiscent of (and this is partly due to the presence of Asian karaoke bars) was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives (which only just missed out on being my favourite film of last year). That should give you an idea of what The Raid 2 is all about: if the original brought extreme martial arts to a destitute tower block, the sequel takes that same art form and applies it to the much glitzier occupied by the Indonesian mafia.

The set-piece fights, therefore, can take place in any number of inventive places. There are several really big fight scenes, which are broken up more distinctly than in The Raid. The first is a brutal melee in the thick mud of a prison yard, and the final one is in an extravagant kitchen of a posh restaurant. In order to get there, however, we go through fights in a porn studio, alleyway, nightclub, subway, and a car chase. Yes, a simple car chase is not enough for The Raid 2; it has to be a car chase with a fistfight inside the car. Despite the relentless approach of each of these fight events; the film does have a more ponderous and meandering tone. Part of the reason for this is the introduction of a bevy of new characters, who have to be developed before they can be dispatched with a broom handle. Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Guy (a brother/sister (?) pairing, the former of whom may be a psychotic death mute) seem to be the duo who are being picked out for an origin story (though not a sequel…). The Indonesian crime family whom Rama is infiltrating provide the most interesting, and conflicted, tension in the movie, as the father’s desire for peace is tested by the actions of an impatient son. At that level, it’s sort of a family drama.

Of course, it all comes head-smashingly back down to earth time after time. Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais (whose importance to the series, one suspects, it’s on a level with the films’ director) deserve enormous congratulations for creating a sequel which is even more brutally inventive (it’s worth stressing that the violence will not be to some, or most, people’s tastes) than the first, but which also has ambitions that would be unsurprising in a Coppola or Scorsese movie. It’s less thrill-a-minute than its predecessor, but what this gives the film is breathing space and the time to lull the audience into a false security with the drama, before reintroducing them to the violence. There was a lot of audible gasping in my cinema (as well as wry chuckling and ‘fucking hell!’ at one point) and that says as much about the film as any review can.

A white-knuckle ride through the mean streets of Jakarta, as The Raid 2 builds a sprawling empire on the viscera of the original.

Title: The Raid 2
Director : Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle
Running time: 2.5 hours or so
Certificate: 18 (I think there's some swearing, or something...)

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