Writer: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad, Ken’ichi Endô, Julie Estelle, Very Tri Yulisman, Cecep Arif Rahman, Yayan Ruhian
Running time: 150mins
The lowdown: The Godfather Pt II of heroic bloodshed movies and surpassing the ballistic brilliance of the first instalment, The Raid 2: Berandal is a five star encore. Iko Uwais returns as beleaguered cop Rama, sent undercover to bust the criminal empire and corrupt police force hinted at in the final moments of the first movie. Yakuza crime movie cool slams headlong into Jacobean revenge tragedy, punctuated by some of the most exhilarating, red raw action ever slammed onto the silver screen. Watch it. Don’t make us tell you twice.
The full verdict: The Raid 2 opens with a poor unfortunate receiving a shotgun blast to the head.
150 minutes later and you’ll know the feeling.
If the first movie was the work of a director with something to prove, Evans, like Tarantino post Reservoir Dogs, has only made it harder for his “difficult second album” (we know it’s his fourth feature). Now he has to follow The Raid with something more than just a Die Hard 2-style retread.
But, no stranger to hard graft (The Raid 2’s action sequences took a year and a half to choreograph and the shoot exceeded 6 gruelling months), the director tasks himself with delivering a two-and-a-half hour crime epic that also addresses criticisms the first movie had less character development than the latest Call of Duty.
Restructured from a script penned before the original Raid, this movie kicks off two hours after the original ends. Rama (Uwais) is forced to go undercover in jail to cosy up with Uco (Putra), the restless and reckless son of crime boss Bangun (Pakusodewo). Bangun lords over Jakarta alongside the Japanese Goto family, enabled by particularly corrupt coppers.
Looking to smash this set-up is Bejo (Abbad, mesmerising), a flamboyant bad guy channeling The Dark Knight’s Joker. With a freakshow gang including instant cult-faves Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, these thugs echo the bizarro gangsters of Japanese yakuza-nasty Ichi The Killer.
Evans is not breaking new ground here. Eastern crime classics Violent Cop, Battles Without Honour and Humanity and The Yellow Sea all ploughed similar turf. But, ambitiously criss-crossing timelines in the opening 20 minute set-up and expanding the scope of the movies’ universe from one building to an entire city, The Raid 2 is a major filmmaking leap forward.
Big themes of betrayal, ambition, greed, loyalty, honour and vengeance are ladled on with supreme confidence. Here, Evans scores big with the fractious relationship between the hungry Uco and the old-school Bangun, benefitting enormously from Putra and Pakusodewo’s electric performances.
Yayan Ruhian, Mad Dog from the first movie, also returns for an extended cameo as a noble assassin lost in this world without honour, venting his confusion through numerous bloody set pieces.
And in these set-pieces Evans again proves he’s no laurel-resting slouch. An early toilet cubicle set punch-up pitches the imprisoned Rama against 20 lowlifes, but this clever, inventive stand-off is a mere bone-cracking amuse-bouche to the later carnage no Red Band trailer can spoil.
The Raid 2 reportedly has a greater arsenal of guns than the original, but it feels much more hands and feet, and knife, and baseball bat, and claw hammer, and hot plate, and broken broom handle, and anything else that comes to hand, ensuring the mayhem doesn’t slip into dull repetition.
With preternatural understanding of how to stage action, Evans knows when to get stately and stand back and when to get loose and handheld amidst the flurry of kicks and punches. He also knows when to flip the camera upside down, exactly how long to time a shot and when to get silly – one fight scene lasts so long Indonesia seems to have slipped into an ice age as snow falls outside.
And not for him the impersonal sound and fury of Transformers or Battleship. The body horror in these action scenes – faces are literally taken off – may have given the BBFC pause before passing it (hooray!) uncut.
With a bigger budget Evans also gives us that car chase we craved and it doesn’t disappoint. Focussing as much on bodily impact as automobile destruction, it’s a breathless, kinetic, violent highlight that demands applause when it finally comes to rest.
The Raid 3 will reportedly take place two hours before the end of this movie. We have faith Gareth Evans won’t Godfather Part III us.
And with Hollywood taking him Stateside, we cannot wait to see what the bloke from Hirwaun, Wales unleashes next on the world.