Is there a more articulate and passionate action director working today than Gareth Evans? 2012’s The Raid: Redemption was not only the best foreign language film that year, but one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen.
The Raid 2 takes place shortly after The Raid, where Jakarta cop Rama (Iko Uwais) fought through floors of gangsters and madmen in a broken down apartment building leaving piles of dead bodies after the battle. When it was all over, Rama thought he could go back to his normal life with his wife and child, until he finds out that a gangster murdered his brother. Rama will stop at nothing to find his brother’s killer and all of his accomplices.
Iko Uwais continues to wow as our lead hero and here his character is tested even further. The Indonesian actor, who was actually discovered by Evans, remains the perfect choice for Rama, giving the character every badass quality in the book with a dose of humanity.
The Raid films are known for uber-violent fighting sequences, which are expertly co-choreographed by Gareth Evans. There is one particularly incredible action sequence that features characters labeled as “Hammer Girl” and “Baseball Bat Man” and Evans flips back and forth between the two characters in their different settings. The Hammer Girl scene on the train is without a doubt one of the most kickass scenes in the film and the editing by Evans as he combines the two scenes together is pretty incredible to watch.
The cinematography from the duo that did the first film, Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono, is glorious and is reminiscent of last year’s Only God Forgives, which featured striking character profile shots and vivid Thailand scenery. Virtually every single shot of The Raid 2 is perfectly filmed and feels more dramatic than the first.
The main problem with The Raid 2 is that it too dialogue heavy, which makes it feel overlong and not as fluid as the first. The beauty of the first film was literally non-stop martial arts for the entire hour and a half, but in the sequel, there is probably an hour and a half of fighting scenes, with intermittent dialogue sequences dividing them all up. In a film like this, we need an underlying story, but the story here isn’t as compelling as it wants to be and deflects from the action scenes. And in a Raid movie, the action scenes are everything.
The Raid 2 certainly isn’t a letdown, but the sequel fails to capture the intensity and fulfilling plotline that the first film had. There is no denying that Gareth Evans has a knack for martial arts filmmaking and that his directorial style is a perfect blend of gorgeous cinematography and acute choreographed fighting scenes. Here’s to The Raid 3? Let’s hope so.