The Raid 2 (2014)
(18) Running time: 150 minutes
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra, Julie Estelle, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, Tio Pakusodewo
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
When I reviewed The Raid, Gareth Evans’ third film as director after the little known but well respected Merantau (2009), I thought the face of action films had been changed forever. Before seeing The Raid I had read reviews saying “you will never see anything quite like it”, and “the best action film ever made”. The trailer was astonishing, and the film itself more than lived up to its reputation. In my review, I seconded what people had been saying, and I too said The Raid was the best action film in decades, and that Gareth Evans was a new force to be reckoned with in the world of martial arts movies. Not long before The Raid, Tony Jaa had become the biggest martial arts star on the planet thanks to the stunning Ong-Bak, but that was like a kids film compared to the immense brutality of The Raid. Star Iko Uwais brought a new, ferocious style of fighting to fans, and the bar was raised forever in terms of violent action films.
While I was attending FrightFest last summer, Evans was in attendance to promote VHS/2 (he co-directed the stunning segment, Safe Haven) and he had a special treat for fans after his Q&A, a clip from the highly anticipated The Raid 2. The scene we all saw was of Hammer Girl, taking down seven Yakuza on a subway train with two hammers. Ripping them apart, cutting throats and tearing their bodies open, the unfinished scene was jaw-dropping, and the FrightFest crowd went berserk. Having raised the bar, and changed the face of action films forever, could it be possible that Evans had actually bettered The Raid? Was it even conceivable that The Raid, in all its ferocious, ambitious and inventive glory could be topped? Well my friends, The Raid 2 is here, and guess what, The Raid 2 is not only better than its predecessor, it pummels the first film into the dirt, smashes its face against a wall, and totally pisses over every bit of brilliance that was The Raid. The sequel, somehow and unbelievably, puts the first film to shame.
The Raid 2 is The Godfather 2 of action films, the Empire Strikes Back of sequels, and the Aliens to the Alien. It is bigger, better, braver and, you’d better believe it, a million times more violent. If you struggled with the violence in the first film, then best you stay well clear here, because those who are easily offended, or do not like the sight of blood, will find LOTS to complain about, and cinemas should have sick bags at the ready. This is savage, gruelling and utterly amazing violence unlike anything EVER seen before, and Evans directs his action and violence with stunning precision and ferocious intensity. The Raid 2 is , like many have said, THE best action film EVER made, period!
Taking place just hours after the events of the first film, Rama(Iko Uwais) is forced into joining a secret group of police hellbent on taking down Jakarta’s criminal underworld. He is told that after the events of The Raid, he will be targeted by the criminals, and so the plan is to give him a new identity, claim everyone who raided that highrise building died, and get Rama into prison and close to Ucok (Arifin Putra), the son of a feared mob boss. It takes the murder of his brother to convince him, but soon Rama is arrested for a planned crime that will get him noticed by Ucok, and it works. The films first big action scene see’s Rama on his first day in prison taking on close to thirty guys in a toilet cubicle, and from here he soon gets Ucok’s attention. After saving Ucok’s life in an astonishing courtyard battle in the mud (arguably the film’s best big action scene), Rama is taken in by Ucok’s crime boss Father upon leaving prison, and the plan is looking like it is working.
Things go horribly wrong as Ucok, desperate to see his Father break his truce with the neighbouring Yakuza, looks for ways to create all out war on the streets, with Rama caught in the middle. It sounds straightforward enough, but The Raid 2 is anything but. Evans makes full use of his near three hour running time by building up characters, developing the story, and creating a frightening world of crime. With gangs switching from Indonesian to Japanese to English, the full on plot is engaging, but also highly complicated, and Evans’ use of clever but tricky time jumps both adds to the films genius, and helps confuse at the same time. You will need a sharp mind to keep up, but this is what makes The Raid 2 so intensely good. This is not some dumb action film with minor plot details: this is heavy shit, and Evans has created a world that is believable, engrossing and downright scary.
The Raid 2 goes way beyond your average action film, and this film puts Evans at the very top of the action genre, and directors willing to dethrone this guys insane genius are going to have to work very hard indeed. Imagine Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann and Paul Greengrass working together to direct a martial arts film, and your about a quarter of the way there. Evans casually, and elegantly shows the whole world how to direct an action/crime saga, and on a fifth of the budget most Hollywood films are made of. Genius? You better believe it, and Evans should be feeling rather smug with himself right now, and if you see him smiling, it is because he knows he has just directed what is the best action film of all time. However, is it the best crime saga? Well no, not quite, because films like The Godfather, Goodfellas and Heat exist, but The Raid 2 can definitely be classed in the same bracket as those films.
The crime saga, the slow brooding camera, the magnificent use of colours and shots of nails falling off locks and rain falling from the sky, the slo-mo build ups, the stylish script and the almost cartoonish characters are all unlike anything you will have seen before. However, amazing as all that is (and it is amazing), NOTHING can prepare you for the insane violence Evans has up his sleeve. The Raid 2 features quite possibly the best fight choreography EVER put to film (sorry Bruce Lee), it is filled with “how the hell did they do that?” moments, and it will very likely leave your jaw on the floor. Me, I could barely sit still when the action was kicking off, and so violent are the fights, you can do nothing but laugh in a hesitant, almost embarrassed way because you WILL NOT believe what you are watching on screen.
If a film can include characters simply called Hammer Girl, Baseball Bat Man and The Assassin, then you should know that there won’t be any messing around with pointless excuses for violence. When Evans and his star Uwais go for it, man they really go for it. Limbs are bent and broken, bodies sliced open, bullets fired at point blank range, heads smashed on floors, bottles smashed on faces, heads cooked on a hot stove, faces torn open, bats and hammers impaled, axes thrust into heads, chairs, bottles, tables and fucking water bottles used as weapons. Evans leaves nothing to the imagination, and even ups the ante with machetes and point blank shotgun blasts (wait till you see it!). I have never in my life witnessed anything like it, and yet somehow each and every scene builds, delivering the next scene even more fantastic than the one before. The final one on one fight scene will go down in history as THE most ferocious fight scene of all time, and you will not know whether to applaud or throw up.
Evans masterfully builds his film to a climax of epic proportions, and while the first hour or so is predominantly chit chat (and fucking good chit chat), the final hour really goes for it, kicking off with an intense build up as Hammer Girl, Baseball Bat Man and The Assassin spring into action. At this point it is time to say hello to the edge of your seat, who will become your new best friend until the film finishes! Behold as Evans directs his first ever car chase, and creates one of the best car chases of all time. Watch in amazement as his camera gets up close and personal in the fight scenes (the shaky cam enhances the madness), and let the mind boggle exactly how his camera gets into the angles that it achieves. I also have to mention the return of actor Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the first film. Here he plays an equally violent character, but one with a tragic story, and some savage scenes of intense violence.
The Raid 2, like the previous film, somehow raises the bar yet again, and after the first film I never thought this would be possible. Evans is quite frankly a God, a fucking genius, and the most exciting action director working in the movie business today. You can watch your epic 12A action films, and your cheesy 15 certified nonsense, but here is a film that raises one bloody middle finger at safety in movies, and says here is something for the hardened movie fan, the movie fan looking for that something extra, that film that will push them to their limits and deliver violence never imagined before. But most of all, The Raid 2 delivers an epic crime saga of the likes we have not seen for years, and will have the pleasure of enjoying for a great many years to come. There will be those who try to copy this, and The Raid 2 will influence hundreds of films in the future, but this is untouchable genius, this is genre defining brilliance of a level not seen in cinemas for years. The Raid 2 is quite simply a film that stands on its own throne, ushering in the wannabes and giving them a right good hiding for ever considering they could come close to its brilliance. The Raid 2 is.. well it’s just fucking amazing!