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Friday, March 28, 2014

THE RAID 2 Review

Julie Estelle as Hammer Girl
Photo by Akhirwan Nurhaidir and Gumilar Triyoga
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

2014, 148 minutes
Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language

Review by Joshua Handler

Gareth Evans' The Raid: Redemption was a balls-to-the-wall action film featuring extreme violence in a contained setting.  This time, Evans opens the action up to the entirety of the city and ups both the violence, ambition, insanity, and fun, along with the running time to create an action film unlike any other.

Taking place two hours after The Raid: Redemption ended, The Raid 2 finds Rama (Iko Uwais) going undercover to infiltrate crime lords' rings and bring down corruption in the police force.

Like The Raid: Redemption, this film is about the action.  However, with The Raid 2, Evans gives the film an ambitious crime drama storyline that fuels the action.  The plot is occasionally too convoluted for its own good, but is engaging, clever, and features just enough twists and turns.  However, as mentioned, the action is key here.  Like The Raid: Redemption, Evans uses everything and the kitchen sink in his kinetic action sequences.  This time, as mentioned, the action largely takes place outdoors and is not limited to hand-to-hand combat or gunplay.  The centerpiece of the film is an extended car chase sequence that, without exaggeration, is one of the greatest in cinema history.  Using a long take that spans two moving cars as its most impressive shot, this sequence is rough, violent, and pulse-poundingly brilliant.

What distinguishes the action scenes in the two Raid films, The Raid 2 in particular, is the athleticism of the cinematography, the precision of the editing, and the brutal beauty of the choreography.  Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Sumhono's cinematography is ambitious in its use of long takes and their willingness to follow the action anywhere and from any angle.  Through an extensive and effective use of close-ups, they manage to keep the action simultaneously intimate and epic in scale with an unmatched intensity.  The choreography, much of which is crafted by star Iko Uwais, is graceful, yet incredibly brutal.  The brutality is furthered by Gareth Evans' editing (yes, he edits his own movies too).  The action scenes are occasionally too long for their own good, but he keeps each one moving fast.  I felt the impact of every impalement and beat-down, which leads us to the violence.

I've seen few films as eye-meltingly violent as The Raid 2.  No descriptions can do it justice.  For many, that will be an attraction and for an equal number of people, that will be a deterrent.  In Evans' insistence that we feel every bone break and every slice, he uses an unparalleled amount of explicit gore, particularly in the multi-part climax which is thrilling, satisfying, and again, perfectly choreographed.  The violence is all in the service of realism.

Iko Uwais leads the committed, athletic cast and gives the film a heart.  His excellence during the action and dramatic sequences is quite impressive.  As a martial artist, he is lightning fast, performing sequences that move so fast that it becomes near insanity.  The performances of the supporting cast are also solid.

Overall, The Raid 2 is a superb action film, flaws and all.  While the hand-to-hand action scenes become a bit repetitive after a while (until Evans changes them up, at least), The Raid 2 is thrilling, it pushes the envelope, and it has some of the most spectacularly brutal action scenes ever.  Gareth Evans has topped the first film in every sense of the word, and I cannot wait to see what violent mayhem he dreams up for The Raid 3.


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