April 17, 2014

Review: 'The Raid 2' – A Cavalcade of Ultraviolence

The Raid 2: Berandal is the epic follow up to Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans' Indonesian martial arts crime saga, The Raid: Redemption. At a full hour longer than the original film, The Raid 2 aims to be bigger and more operatic thematically in every possible way. It features some of the most creatively choreographed and executed scenes of ultraviolence and bloodiness ever put to screen. Evans' controlled direction propels the conventionally plotted film to new heights of action filled drama.

Artificially inserted into the film is a convoluted and fairly standard storyline centred around organized crime and an undercover cop mission. It hits all the hallmarks of Asian gangsterism as Evans ratchets up the hand-to-hand fight scenes to heights not thought possible. Several sequences of insane violence are shot handheld in long takes to highlight the mastery of its choreography. Each splat of blood or punch thrown is purposely placed in the 148-minute feature as Evans takes the showdown to every location possible contrasting the first film's singular focus and real-time setting.

Our protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais) must deal with the aftermath of Redemption, going undercover to infiltrate the Jakarta crime syndicate and its dealings with the Japanese mob as he quickly becomes a monster on the level of his enemies. This mission is never really explored as a slow internal father/son struggle between Ucok (Arifin Putra) and Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo) threatens even more violence for everyone involved.

Evans' exponentially increased vision and ambition should cause the film to burst and crumble at every turn yet his sheer talent and artistry make every brutal act lyrical and operatic. His audacity is never more apparent than the introduction of two shadowy secondary villains known as "Hammer Girl" (Julie Estelle) and "Baseball Bat Man" (Very Tri Yulisman), a pair of comically over the top and cartoonish sibling assassins working for villainous Bejo (Alex Abbad), himself full of its own Bond villain type affectations.

Evans has achieved a unique balance of creative violence and high art. The Raid 2 is a "smörgåsbord of cinematic influences" with shades of the A Better Tomorrow and Infernal Affairs trilogies remixed with The Godfather Part II. The sequel goes bigger in the bloodiest of ways, using precision and extended sequences to tell an epic story of brutality in the crime genre. Evans affirms his talent and craftsmanship with unflinching precision. The film's energy and expressionistic verve cannot be denied as it culminates in a cavalcade of genre filmmaking.

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