Directed by: Gareth Evans
Written by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo
After the events in The Raid: Redemption, Yuda/Rama is ready to get back to his wife and baby, but he is quickly informed that a secret police task force needs him to go undercover to break open the dirty cops that are on the take with the Syndicate. In order to get inserted into the Indonesian Mob, he must be sent to jail under the assumption he killed a Politician’s kid, overcome the odds of not being murdered, befriend the son of the Mob Boss of the Jakarta, Uco.
Working at becoming trusted in the group, he discovers that Uco resents his father for playing politics instead of plotting coups against the competition. Uco joins forces with a rival group that wants to oust Uco’s father, and Yuda, whose undercover name is Rama now, becomes embroiled in the battles, all the while working to find the dirty cops.
In Indonesia the subtitle for the The Raid 2 is Berandal, which translates to Thugs, and although I can see why they did not use it for the North American release it does explain the story quite a bit more, in retrospect. A film that, on first look, it reads like action porn; dialogue that leads to the next fight but a story that does not necessarily read like fine Shakespeare having found the subtitle one sees how much the film feels like it is leading towards something bigger in the 3rd film that has recently been announced.
But that does not mean that the story thread does not give you enough to feel engaged with the characters. We know Yuda is working this case to keep his family safe because he is told that if he does not go undercover the crooked cops and politicians will destroy his happy home. There is even a hired killer, Prakoso, who has one of the choicest fight scenes with a Machete (directed as if he was Jason Voorhees), who has a nice scene where we learn his real reasons for working in such a dirty business.
The family troubles of Uco and his father Bangun is well written and logical, the characters felt real as they butted heads over how the business should run, and even in a fun scene after Bangun tells his son that he is not ready to take on more responsibility, Uco has an altercation with a hooker he has hired because if he cant get respect from his Dad he damn-well better get it from someone he deems below him. And when the inevitable betrayal happens you feel as though you witnessed the breakdown of a family unit, where the only son is lashing out to get his father’s attention and love.
The action is top-notch; smart and logical. Even in the biggest fight of the show that happens in the early parts of Act 1 in a prison yard with a cast that must number in the high double digits you never lose track of who is fighting who, and where the main cast is compared to each other. Gareth’s placement of camera, and his use of the dolly and cranes, as well as his use of the space in the frame puts this film quite high in the genre. A film that is so much fun it even includes Gimmick Level Bosses where one uses a Baseball Bat and Ball, and the other two hammers. And when you meet them as Yuda fights his way from Boss Battle to Boss Battle the grin you make will truly hurt your face.
With a very thin tie to the first film, one never quite feels like that really matters until you realize that poor Yuda never gets to have his just desserts, nor his happy ending. In fact the film doesn’t have much of an ending at all, just battles its way in to opening up the inevitable next phase in Yuda’s life fighting his way to the centre of Indonesia’s crime families until it is just him, holding his wife and child atop a bloodied mountain of made-men. This is very much a first part of a duology,with The Raid: Redemption on its own like Empire Strikes Back was really part one of two parts with Return, and Star Wars was self contained.
Do any of the nit-picky problems take away from the magical time you will have during your two and a half hours stay with Yuda? None what-so-ever. The Raid 2 does exactly what it told you to was going to do: Give you some of the best action scenes in film today and entertain you all the way through. It is funny, it is exciting, and the story is compelling enough to keep you interested while you wait for the adrenaline to drain away from your system so you are ready for the next fight.
A tremendous effort once again by Director Gareth Evans who seems to have, not only appeared out of nowhere, but show up ready to change to face of a tired genre full with obviously choreographed fight scenes that seems stylish but have little heart. Gareth directs the action gritty, real, and cutting-edge that you leave the film feeling like you just kissed a girl for the first time AND it was while you were watching Star Wars. Here’s to more from this extraordinary talent.