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Raid 2, The

aka The Raid 2: Berandal

D: Gareth Evans / 150m

Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, Cecep Arif Rahman, Ken’ichi Endô, Julie Estelle, Very Tri Yulisman, Yayan Ruhian, Cok Simbara, Roy Marten

Picking up after the events of The Raid, The Raid 2 reintroduces us to Rama (Uwais), that movie’s protagonist, and his boss Bunawar (Simbara).  After a quick debrief, Bunawar tells Rama he has another job for him, one that will take him undercover in an attempt to find further links to corrupt police officials.  Given a false identity, Yuda, Rama is sent to prison with the intention of getting close to Uco (Putra).  Uco is the son of gang boss Bangun (Pakusodewo), and the two men strike up an uneasy friendship, culminating in Rama saving Uco’s life during a massive prison brawl (one of the movie’s several impressive set pieces).

Two years later, Rama is released from prison and is welcomed into Bangun’s gang where he acts as a bodyguard for Uco and as an enforcer.  He also learns that Bangun isn’t the only crime boss in town, there’s also a Chinese gang led by Goto (Endô), but both sides have agreed on a truce that has lasted for ten years.  However, up-and-coming gangster Bejo (Abbad) wants both gangs overthrown and himself installed as overall boss.  With Uco desperate to become more involved in his father’s organisation, and continually being passed over when important jobs present themselves, it isn’t long before Bejo has struck a deal with Uco, and the pair begin to undermine the peace that has existed for so long.

With both sides doing their best to avoid any conflict, Uco is forced to take drastic measures to ensure the war between them takes place.  Now caught in the middle and with little support from Bunawar, Rama must avoid having his real identity revealed while also stopping Bejo and Uco from taking over.  This leads to an extended showdown at a restaurant where Bejo and Uco are negotiating with corrupt policeman, Reza (Marten).

Raid 2, The - scene

Following the tremendous success of The Raid, a follow up was inevitable, and it’s to writer/director Gareth Evans’ credit that he’s managed to expand on the criminal underworld introduced in the first movie, while retaining the fierce, bone-crunching action that made that movie such an exhilarating (albeit vicious) thrill ride.  The introduction of the two rival gangs deepens the ongoing story – there’s a third movie still to come – and the relationship between Bangun and Uco, while predictable, is given sufficient screen time to be credible.  It does mean that Rama takes a bit of a back seat during the movie’s middle third, and this protracted section could have done with some judicious trimming, but you can’t fault Evans for trying to broaden the scope after the claustrophobic setting of the first movie.  However, much of this expansion is unnecessary and there are too many scenes that replicate scenes that have gone before, while most of the new characters are a whisper away from being derivative and uninspired; it’s thanks to a great cast that they resonate more effectively than the shortcomings of Evans’ script would seem to allow.  And Rama’s remit: to expose more of the high-level corruption revealed in The Raid, is largely forgotten about until the movie’s untidy resolution.

But it’s the action that counts and it’s here that Evans builds on the explosive, visceral content of The Raid to bring us several sequences that are just astonishing for their creativity, incredible choreography, and wince-inducing blows.  From the prison brawl (where one inmate has his leg broken in suitably horrible fashion), to the exploits of Bejo’s hired assassins Hammer Girl (Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Yulisman), to a car chase that earns prizes for its verve and ingenuity, to the final showdown between Rama and The Assassin (Rahman) that is dizzying in the speed of its execution, Evans raises the bar once more and shows Hollywood that even now, most action movies it churns out remain anaemic in comparison.

Rating: 8/10 – an adrenaline rush of a movie tempered by slower-paced sequences that boost the overall plot, The Raid 2 is slightly less rewarding than its predecessor but still head and shoulders above any other action movie you’ll see this year; unremittingly savage and gory in places, this sees Evans consolidate his position as the best action director working today.