Director: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah, Arifin Putra, Julie Estelle
Written by: Gareth Evans
Running Time: 150 mins
Release date: 11th April 2014
In 2012, an action thriller from Indonesia, directed by a Welsh man, took the genre, picked it up and smacked it, very hard, on the bottom. That film was The Raid and it took the world by storm, taking martial arts films to a whole new level. It was inevitable that a sequel was on the cards. So now we have The Raid 2, which, while not the most original story ever, will literally leave you black, blue and totally exhausted. Gareth Evans hasn’t only raised the bar when it comes to action set pieces. He’s broken it and thrown it away.
Rookie cop, Rama, has just left the building he has fought his way out of and already he finds himself in a predicament. The men in the building were just small fry and he is convinced to go under cover and infiltrate a gangland family in order to help take down the crooked cops and politicians who are pulling the strings at the top. With his family under threat, he has to head to the violent world of prison in order to build trust with the son of one of the gangs, Ucok. What he doesn’t realise, is that there has been a truce between the gangland families and a new player has come on the scene wanting complete power.
Let’s get rid of the negatives first. The plot is nothing new. We’ve been here time and time again, with gang against gang, families double-crossing each other to regain respect and honour. It comes right off the pages of The Godfather Part II and so many other films similar. It’s perfectly fine to borrow from other sources. Some of the greatest films ever made take a piece of this, that and the other from previous movies. What I think was disappointing was that Evans’s first film came across so totally unique and even though many compared it to Die Hard, it managed to stamp it’s own identity.
So having mentioned Die Hard, this is where problem two comes into play. Both the original Raid and Die Hard worked because they were in confined spaces. There was no way to escape except either by beating the bad guys or in a body bag. As with Die Hard 2, by opening up the whole situation, you lose some of the tension. Rama is no longer like a caged animal, he has room to breathe and can easily walk away (although the plot contrivances don’t obviously allow him to and he certainly won’t).
Finally, at a bum-numbing 150 minutes (it seems that every movie coming out recently is way, WAY, too long) it suffers from some flabby moments and could have been trimmed at least 20 minutes. It is perfectly acceptable to make a film under 2 hours and I think that having a shorter running time this would have worked in its favour because, let’s face it, if you are familiar with the first film, you are not there for plot and character development.
This is where the film triumphs and you do manage to forget it’s downfalls. The fights are utterly, utterly mindblowing. Exhilarating. Extraordinary. Exhausting. Never have I sat in a cinema where the audience were literally gasping. Evans has thrown the rule book when it comes to action sequences out the window and re-written it. You thought you had seen everything in The Raid, then this film starts with a fight in a prison toilet where hero Rama, in a cubicle, takes on most of the other prisoners. You are impressed at the speed of his fists and the way he uses a door and a toilet bowl to defend himself but this is only the beginning. Evans then goes up a notch with the next fight, and the next, and the next. You seriously think to yourself that he cannot top what you have just seen…and then he does.
Trust me when I say this, though. If you are screamish and don’t like bones being broken or faces being smashed in, avoid at all cost because nothing is left to the imagination. A scene on a tube train with a character called Hammer Girl will make you never look at a claw hammer in the same way. Imagine what damage you can do with a tool like that to a human being, then times it by 30! The audiences at the screening were squirming in their seats. One particular fight goes on for an eternity and as both men stop, you could hear a collective release of air within the cinema as every caught their breath.
Are the action scenes better than The Raid? Absolutely, by miles. Is the film better than The Raid? Alas, no. which is a pity because the action alone would guarantee 5 out of 5 but the length and the plot doesn’t quite cut it. Trust me when I say, if you want to be blown away by the most brutal, violent, fight choreography ever, then don’t let the flabbiness of the story put you off. Forget everything else you have ever seen before. Go and be amazed.