The Raid 2 has a couple of different titles. It’s also called The Raid 2: Berandal (the title I decided to go with), and IMDb have it listed as The Raid: Retaliation. But action movie fans can just go ahead and call it the action movie of the year. Yes, I know we’re only in the fourth month, but I can’t see anything stealing the crown from this bad boy.
Everything that you’ve already heard about The Raid 2 is true. It’s bigger and better than its predecessor, and it blows away almost every other action movie from the last decade. I considered giving it a perfect 10 out of 10, but eventually decided that the minor flaws, which I will mention in due course, were just enough to hold back a point.
Starting off just hours after the events of the first movie, Rama (Iko Uwais) is persuaded to help clean the corruption out of the police force. In order to do that he must get himself close to Uco (Arifin Putra), and in order to do THAT he must get himself arrested and thrown into jail. Which he does, meaning that it’s not too long until some powerful people take note of Rama and his special skillset. After a couple of years inside, Rama gets out and goes to work for Uco’s father (Bangun, played by Tio Pakusodewo). He has to keep his wits about him at all times, especially as some big trouble is looming, in the shape of tested loyalties and growing divisions between the different criminal gangs.
Written and directed by Gareth Evans, who thrilled fans with the first movie, and also Merantau before that, The Raid 2 continues his hot streak, and puts him at three for three. In fact, this is his best movie yet. It may run for two and a half hours, but it doesn’t feel bloated, thanks to the near-perfect pacing. The action set-pieces are spread out nicely throughout the first half, before the second half escalates everything en route to a fantastic, satisfying finale. It’s moving without being manipulative, epic without feeling smug, and continually finds ways to make your jaw hit the floor.
Although Evans has been garnering plenty of praise over the past couple of years, it’s fair to say that it’s the cast giving their all who have really helped him to rise head and shoulders above the crowd. Uwais is a force of nature, but he’s also a fairly gifted actor, natural and likable. While this may not have the sense of immediacy that the first movie had, viewers are never allowed to forget just how much danger that Uwais is in. Every scene feels tense, and there’s always the potential for everything to go horribly wrong. The physical threats are ongoing, but Uwais also does a great job of showing the toll on his mental state. Putra is very good as Uco, Pakusodewo is also very good as the standard crime boss who balances ambition with honour and diplomacy, and Oka Antara does well in the role of Eka (a right hand man who finds it easier to see the big picture than Uco). Alex Abbad is the main agitator, helping to cause rifts and death, but it’s the fighting furies who prove even more memorable. Yayan Ruhian (who played Mad Dog in The Raid) gets a worthy introduction, and every moment he’s onscreen is fantastic, while Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman both get to steal a few scenes as, respectively, “Hammer Girl” and “Baseball Bat Man”. Last, but not least, is Donny Alamsyah (another returning face from The Raid) as the man who might just be a lethal match for our hero.
But, before I wrap this up, what are the minor flaws that stopped me from giving this a perfect score? Well, first of all, the camerawork is a bit too shaky and frantic at times. Evans can shoot action scenes brilliantly, and I know that the shot choice and movement add to the energy of each moment, but he can also get a bit carried away, especially in the many fights that throw viewers in the middle of some close combat. Second, there are a few story strands that just feel neglected, especially the focus on a certain character who just seems to appear out of nowhere in the finale, despite being, apparently, the focus of Rama’s undercover investigation.
But those won’t be the aspects that you remember as you leave the cinema. No way. You’ll be too busy trying to decide what fight you liked the best. There’s the prison sequence, the machete madness, the car chase, the finale, and much, much more. And you’ll be wondering just how long it has been since you saw something so vicious, violent and hugely entertaining. Let’s just hope that the third, and final (?), instalment somehow manages to hit the same, dizzying, heights.
The Raid 2: Berandal is released nationwide here in the UK on Friday April 11th.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: GARETH EVANS
STARS: IKO UWAIS, ARIFIN PUTRA, DONNY ALAMSYAH, OKA ANTARA, ALEX ABBAD, YAYAN RUHIAN, JULIE ESTELLE, VERY TRI YULISMAN, TIO PAKUSODEWO
RUNTIME: 150 MINS APPROX