UK Release: April 11th 2014
After the universal praise and commercial success back in 2012 with ‘The Raid’, Gareth Evans has returned with ‘THE RAID 2’. Being a different film to that of the first one, this film (originally conceived as Evans first film to make his directorial debut with) increases the scope, narrative, general nasty ultra- violence and pretty much everything in every department. What you get in this film is the return of Rama (over night star – and even more charismatic here Iko Uwais) going undercover in the Mafia where he has to stop conflict between two rival mafia groups, of the Japanese Yakuza and the Indonesian Benrandal (the name of which was part of the film’s title in the US).
The thing is with ‘The Raid 2’, if you are expecting something like the very straight-forward narrative of the first film going up a tower block like they were levels of a videogame this might not be for you. While the incredibly fluid directed action scenes are there, what you are getting is more some sprawling crime epic, in the mould of ‘Infernal Affairs’ then anything. Now don’t let that turn you away, it is clear Evans is in his element here. There is a real sense of determination and appreciation with the story he wants to tell here, and the world he has created (something which the first film did – and to me made it into something which was celebrated). I think this is more a film you need to pay attention to then just watch with a beer in hand like what the first one did, saying that though there is even better action scenes in this, which coming up to the Summer Blockbuster season, could make a lot of big Hollywood films look crap. One particular fight scene in a car (which is happening alongside a car chase) is something which will redefine on-screen fight choreography with its ambition, confidence and fluidity which arguably does make it the best contemporary car scene in film. It also confirms Gareth Evans to be one of the best Action directors in the world, and on the top of his game.
There is certainly a tonal element which could be made comparison to ‘Only God Forgives’, the idea of death being around the corner, family redemption with brothers/parents and shocking ultra-violence. A lot of this bigger and better mentality shown here with the sequel does create faults. While the general story itself is fine, and introduces some iconic villains of Hammer Girl, Baseball Bat Man and Drunken Fist Master, there are too many characters. Also of which are introduced a good way into the second half of the film, which does come across a little jarring. This issue also takes away from Rama himself, who at times you do wonder where he has gone, making you think that Evans has just reworked his first script just to have Rama be inserted into it even thought the hands juggling the characters might have dropped him now and again very noticeably on screen. The first half-hour as is surprisingly dull at setting the film with exposition, but it does award you with your patience, including the fine performances of Arifin Putra’s Uco arguably the most interesting character of film. While it maybe a long way from the first instalment, ‘The Raid 2’ is still a genuine delight of a film and it will make you want to see ‘The Raid 3’ to end this proposed trilogy.