The Raid 2: Berandal is an Indonesian action film that made its way into U.S. theaters in the beginning of April of this year. Its predecessor, The Raid: Redemption, was a surprising and refreshing addition to the action film genre. It is one of the best action movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Not surprisingly, Gareth Evans’ The Raid 2 is a great sequel that is similar in its action and fight sequences with a more developed story, bigger budget, and lengthier run time. This is possibly my favorite movie of 2014 so far, so I apologize in advance if this review is a little long. I was lucky enough to catch it a few times in the theater despite its very short stay (it was only in local theaters for about a week). People who haven’t had the chance to see it, however, can watch it via digital purchase this Tuesday, June 24th on iTunes and other digital platforms. The DVD/Blu-Ray will be available on July 8th in the U.S. and Canada (August 11th in the UK).
Warning: Possible Spoilers
The Raid 2 picks up right where the first one ends. Rama (Iko Uwais) seeks out a cop named Bunawar (Cok Simbara) in order to seek justice for Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), the cop who was responsible for organizing the raid on the drug lord, Tama (Ray Sahetapy), which got all but one of his men killed. Bunawar tries to convince Rama to go undercover in order to weed out the corrupt cops who are working with crime bosses in Jakarta. At first, Rama refuses, but after hearing of his brother Andi’s (Donny Alamsyah) murder, he accepts in order to seek vengeance for his brother’s death. In order to infiltrate the crime syndicate, Rama must create a new identity which requires him to be imprisoned for an indefinite period of time. While in prison, he gets close with Uco (Arifin Putra), the overly ambitious son of Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo), a known crime boss. When Rama finally gets out of prison, he is employed by Bangun and works alongside Bangun’s right hand man, Eka (Oka Antara). He soon finds himself mixed up in a mess full of over ambition and betrayal. His main target, though, is Bejo (Alex Abbad), the outsider who is responsible for Andi’s death. He soon figures out that Bejo has big plans for himself, but first, Bejo must turn the partnered Indonesian and Japanese gangs against each other, and he uses Uco to help him carry this out, resulting in a ton of violence and a lot of badass scenes thanks to the addition of Bejo’s three deadly henchmen–Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman), Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle), and the Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman).
Gareth Evans, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite action directors, did an amazing job with The Raid 2. It is the most fun I’ve had at the theater in a long time. I was able to see the premiere in New York City with a full theater, and the audience’s reaction to a lot of the scenes were priceless. This movie, as well as the first one, are very violent, which might not be for everyone, but I don’t mind it at all. The fight scenes in these movies are ridiculous, and even more so in this one because with the bigger budget, Evans was able to do a lot more, like car chase scenes, as well as using different locations as opposed to being filmed in just one building.
The action plays out sort of like a video game, especially towards the end when Rama goes through fights with what I would call “mini bosses” and then “the boss.” It was similar in The Raid: Redemption, too, with Rama working his way up the floors of the building and finally reaching Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), who I would consider to be “the boss” of that movie. What is even cooler is that Evans decided to keep Yayan Ruhian, one of the most skilled Silat fighters I’ve ever seen, and make him a new character in this movie named Prakoso. Prakoso, a hired killer for Bangun, is one of the few characters who has a few softer, more emotional scenes, which you wouldn’t expect from a hired killer.
The other actor who I have to praise for a great, emotional performance would be Arifin Putra, who surprised me after having seen his sub par performance as a killer in the Mo Brothers’ horror film Macabre. He brings a complexity to his character, Uco, and he really steals a lot of the scenes he’s in. If being the son of a crime boss isn’t complex enough, he struggles with his inability to have patience as the hunger for power overtakes him, and he has to decide between power and loyalty.
Iko Uwais was discovered by Gareth Evans while he was doing a documentary about the fighting style, Silat. Together, they made their first movie together in 2009, Merantau. I have to say that in all three movies I’ve seen him in, Iko Uwais is one of the most impressive fighters I’ve ever seen. The fights are so well choreographed I swear the actors don’t miss a single beat. Unfortunately, Uwais kind of steps out of the spotlight a little bit in this movie, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a decent amount of very entertaining action scenes. This guy simply kicks ass.
There is a lot of ass kicking in this movie, actually. Bejo’s three henchmen, for example, are amazing. Hammer Girl is absolutely brutal, a silent killer with sunglasses who uses her claw hammers to smash faces and rip the guts out of grown men. Baseball Bat Man should play for the Yankees (yeah, I’m a Yankees fan, so what?) because he can hit a guy square in the head with a bat and ball from like fifty feet away, now that’s precision. The Assassin is incredibly skilled with his fists, but his specialty is using two karambits (small knives with curved blades) to slice and dice his enemies to death. They are a fun bunch, really, and it’s even more fun when you get to see Rama fight them.
The action in these films are so well-developed, it’s beginning to influence some other western directors. For example, Anthony and Joe Russo, who directed this year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, have said that they used the fight scenes in The Raid: Redemption to help them develop more hard hitting action for the film. Hollywood has even decided (as usual) to do a remake of The Raid to be directed by Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3). Surprise, surprise! Remakes are Hollywood’s favorite. It is said that Frank Grillo, who starred in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has signed on for a part.
I applaud the Americans who actually don’t mind reading subtitles. It’s the lack of love for subtitled movies that let awesome movies like this slip through the cracks. I hardly know anyone who has ever heard of The Raid, especially other girls (there must be some out there!) However, I suggest them to whoever is willing to watch (and read). So before The Raid remake comes out, watch the originals, originals are always better!
With that said, The Raid 2: Berandal is a worthy successor to the first. It’s full of action, including car chases, prison mud fights, bathroom stall fights, restaurant fights, subway fights, kitchen fights, you name it. It also has a more complex story than the last, as well as skilled martial artists and some great actors. It never drags in its 2 1/2 hour running time, and if you can’t tell already, I’m a huge fan. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves action and has the stomach for violence.