Sundance 2014 Review: THE RAID 2 Sets a New High Point for Violent Action Cinema

Ryland Aldrich, Festivals Editor



It was no hyperbole when we called The Raid: Redemption "the best action movie in decades." That film redefined martial arts cinema for the 21st century and announced Gareth Evans as one of the most exciting young directors working today. So it has been a tense two-and-then-some years waiting for a follow-up from Evans. Would taking the action outside of the lone building keep up the first film's wicked pace? Could a sequel replicate the form of the first film without feeling repetitive? Did Evans have the skills to tell a much broader story? Was it even possible to top the bone-crunching action of The Raid: Redemption?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding, "Fuck YES!" The Raid 2 is a full force actioner, just as tightly cut at almost an hour longer. It's every bit a sequel to the first film and an expansion of the Merantau universe. Evans has expertly crafted a complex and interesting tale that weaves through the numerous bloody fight set pieces. And yes, the action in the sequel is even more impressive, even more artistic, and even more vicious than the first film.

The film opens not long after the events of The Raid: Redemption have wrapped up. Through a stylized opening sequence that plays loose with chronology, we see the death of Rama's brother and the effective cleaning of the slate from the first film. Rama tracks down a man named Bunawar, the good cop his brother told him to find. Bunawar explains to Rama that Tama (the bad guy boss in the last film) was a small fish. Tama actually worked for the crime boss Bangun. The real prize is Bangun, and more importantly, to find out which high level officials and cops are on Bangun's payroll. To do this, Bunawar needs Rama to infiltrate Bangun's organization. Rama would prefer to just go back to his loving wife and son, but Bunawar makes it clear that if it becomes known to Bangun that it was Rama who took out Tama, he and his family are as good as dead.

Bunawar's plan involves giving Rama a new identity by killing anyone who knew it was Rama that took down Tama (not that there are many left), and then placing Rama in the same jail as Bangun's son Uco. Rama immediately catches Uco's eye after he holds his own against 30 prisoners in the film's first action set-piece shot in a dirty bathroom stall. But Rama refuses Uco's quick offer of employment, earning a bit of scornful respect from the crime-boss-to-be.

It takes Rama coming to Uco's rescue is an enormous battle in a muddy prison yard (perhaps the film's most fantastic scene) to cement Uco's trust in Rama. And when Rama is finally released from prison, it is Uco who picks him up and takes him straight to his father to receive Bangun's personal thanks. Rama accepts Bangun's offer to work for his organization and quickly proves his value as a top enforcer. Everything looks to be falling into place for Bunawar's plan.

In the Merantau Universe, half of Jakarta is under the control of Bangun while the other half is controlled by the Yakuza and their crime boss Goto. Bangun and Goto have been in alliance for 10 years and things are mostly peaceful for the two gangs. But Uco hates the Japanese influence on his city and loathes his father's reluctance to stand up to Goto. Uco's thirst for power makes him the perfect target for Bejo, an upstart crime boss who tempts Uco with the promise of the two of them defeating Goto and carving up his territories for themselves. Bejo's plan and Uco's greed threatens Bunawar's operation and promises to throw all of Jakarta into bloody mob war, leaving Rama right in the center of the violence.

If all of this sounds pretty complicated, you're not wrong. The details of this Godfather-esque plot are setup in the first act (with a good amount of fighting interspersed). This leads to plenty of exposition that can be tricky to follow in a mixture of Indonesian, Japanese, and a bit of English. However it is worth the effort as all of this stage setting means that once the pieces are in play, the plot can unfold with relative ease, allowing for far less exposition, and fight sequences with real story stakes.

And by God are the fight sequences explosive. It's nearly impossible to oversell the action. Bones are broken, faces are kicked, heads are smashed, wrists are slit, torsos are impaled, skulls are penetrated, and hundreds of bodies are shredded by bullets. The martial arts on display from Silat experts Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Arif Rahman are every bit as impressive as the first film. But there are many more weapons in play this time from hammers to baseball bats to box cutters to pick axes to hand sickles. There is no shortage of imagination at work here when it comes to ways to wound, disembowel, and kill one's enemy.

This brings up a real concern. The Raid 2 is an extremely violent film. It is quite certainly one of the most graphically violent films ever made. And to their credit, the stunt, effects, and sound design teams have made one of the most realistically violent films ever, as well. There is no punch, kick, or vicious forcing of a limb to bend a direction it isn't supposed to bend that doesn't look painfully realistic. Never has a film been made that has caused an audience to be more vocal with grimacing oohs and ahhs.

So what is to be said about this much realistic violence? Some people will undoubtedly be bothered by it. Fringe organizations will inevitably call for a boycott. Zealots could make it a rallying cry for what's wrong in our society. Those who don't like violent films should most certainly steer clear. But action fans...? Well action fans are going to absolutely lose their shit. Gareth Evans better be ready to sit tall on action cinema's high throne of bloodied foes. All hail the King.

There is nary a footstep put wrong in this film from the incredible production design to the perfectly moody score. The acting is great across the board with Arifin Putra as Uco and Oka Antara as his father's bodyguard Eka giving particularly confident performances. But it is the scale of the film that truly defines it as a masterpiece. The muddy brawl stands out as the film's most impressive orgy of mayhem but there are incredible fight sequences in a subway, in the snow, and one of the most exhilarating car-chase-fist-fights ever filmed. All this adds up to a movie that easily trounces the already astronomically high expectations set out by its predecessor. The Raid 2 is quite frankly, the most epic martial arts action film ever made. And no, it's not just damned hyperbole.

It should be noted that Twitch Editor-in-Chief Todd Brown is credited as an Executive Producer of The Raid 2. That has no factor in this review. Trust us, we'd tell him if it sucked.

Around the Internet:
  • Hanajun Chung

    Can't believe it's coming out so soon, just seems unreal, but I'm next-level happy that we don't have to wait too long. The middle of March is going to feel incredibly long leading up to the 28th.

  • Glen or Macy

    SO when IS the bluray out? ;) no way this is getting a theatrical release in Sweden... :(

  • anto

    Shit, spoiler.. aaaaarrrrggggghhh.. #throwing table

  • ColinJ

    Please tell me the blood is all syrup and not that CGI horseshit.

  • Luthfi Deftyan

    yes indeed, it's real period, i mean red stuff.

  • ColinJ

    Joy!!

  • arturo

    I know Todd Brown is executive producer on The Raid 2, but I would love to hear his review on the film (I know he will give it thumbs up). And will there be a directors cut on Blu-ray? Also will Gareth Evans make any cuts to the movie if the MPAA give him any shit? In the UK it will just get an "18", so if the MPAA request cuts to get an R, just make sure he delivers the 148min version to the BBFC, i'm sure they will leave it alone..

  • The only version that currently exists IS the director's cut. We don't know what is going to go on with the MPAA yet because they haven't seen it yet. They screen in early February and we'll work it out from there. No matter what, though, Evans' version will be on Blu, yes. Should have a lot of extra stuff, too. There are some major sequences that got dropped along the way.

    And I'm WAY too close to this to review it. The screening was a nerve wracking experience where all I could see we're decisions made along the way in script and edit and second guess each and every one of them. I need a bit more distance before I can take the film on it's own terms.

    But Ryland's totally wrong on one thing: The signature moment is not the riot. It's the one on one fight with Cecep Rahman at the end. That's one of my favorite things ever. Heh.

  • owen

    I know its early but will the extra scenes be edited back in or
    just extras

  • Extras. The cut that exists now is the cut that Gareth wants.

  • arturo

    Cool, I've been reading the reviews and so far its been getting some of the best response for an action film ever, but still no UK date, hope we don't have to wait to long after the US release in March? Anyway this is now the number 1 film on my list to see this year, and i'm 99% confident that it will be one of the top 10 best sequels in motion picture history?

  • Mad_Dog_Yayan

    I'm hoping the version to be release in Indonesia will be the current one.

  • Yes, it will be. Unless the local censors go to town on it.

  • Adrian Ziska

    First of all - BIG congratulations for everyone who placed a helpful hand in order to made this sequel possible and become reality.

    Secondly - is it by any chance possible that The raid 2 will be presented on upcoming European Film Market during Berlinale next month? I'm eagerly looking forward to see it on big screen, and EFM would be a perfect place to do so.

    And last - Mr. Brown maybe doesn't remember me, but I am part of programme team in the biggest Slovakia film festival (yes, iti is still very small compared to other festivals, but Slovakia is a small country as well :) ). In 2010 we screened on our festival the director's cut of Merantau (and I am still confident that this director's - longer cut of the movie is much better in tha way of profound storytelling and character development).- the audencie was very thrilled.
    Two years ago we screened the first Raid movie. The reaction from audience was even more thrilling comparing to Merantau.

    For this year's edition of our festival (mid June) I definitely want to screen this sequel. Therefore, would be on EFM somebody whom I can negotiate the terms and conditions of screening?

    Thank you in advance for reply.

  • No, the film won't screen at the EFM as it's already sold pretty much everywhere so there's no need to pay for a market screening. Screening at your festival will be up to the local rights holder, should be the same people as the first one.

  • Yep that fight's pretty damned good too. It's definitely the equivalent of the Mad Dog fight in the first film. But come on, that prison fight is unlike anything EVER on film.

    There are so many great fights. It's truly an embarrassment of riches.

  • roofies

    Andi is Dead? Thanks for spoiling it you fuck twit

  • Olyphantastic

    It's in the first 5 minutes, so I think spoiling stuff that is setup for the film (like in the first 30 minutes), should be allowed in a review.

    Like you can't review The Bourne Supremacy without mentioning that Marie dies in the first 10 minutes of the film, it's too important for the film setup to not mention.

  • naruto_nutty

    Marie dies!!!! WTF dude, come on :( You couldn't put a spoiler disclaimer here too! Need to finish that series!

  • newbie2010 kaskus

    spoiler alert ....

  • Don Drye

    I already stopped reading after the third paragraph because of all the spoilers.
    I came here to read a review not a complete recap of the movie...

  • Keith McMillan

    :)

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