Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Raid 2 Review

The Raid 2 Review

How do you decide whether or not an action director has been successful? How does one weigh in on the importance of being an outstanding action director?

For me, the best action movies are the films that treat every piece of their creation with respect. The best action movies respect their actors, their characters, their writing, their direction and their creativity. They also, above all else, respect the action they shoot. It is much more than just recording car chases, shooting bullets and cheesy one-liners. However, an action director can make something preposterously familiar and still respect everything needed for a good action movie. It seems to me that most American action directors focus on the big and the loud instead of getting all their moving parts together cohesively. I think that has played a big part in my disappointment over the genre over the years.

I wish more American directors were like Gareth Evans and I wish we were getting more films like “The Raid 2” on a weekly basis.

For those of you unfamiliar, I wrote an edition of "Overlooked Film of the Week" on "The Raid." The basic rundown on “The Raid” is a group of tactical Indonesian police raid a tenant building run by a big-time crime lord. Once the crime lord catches wind of a police raid, he orders his tenants to protect him at all costs. Thus, an epic battle of a movie ensues as the police try to detain the crime lord, the police are led by the young Sergeant Rama (Iko Uwais) and the film builds a beautiful bridge to a potential sequel.

Iko Uwais reprises his role as Rama in “The Raid 2” and this sequel begins almost promptly after the events of the first film. Rama has begun contact with Bunawar (Cok Simbara) an honest cop who plans to recruit Rama to go after the other criminals mentioned at the end of the first film, as well as the corrupt cops who protect them. This means that Rama will have to go deep undercover, leave his family, go to prison and become a member of the most powerful criminal syndicate in the land. Rama is hesitant at first, but after he learns of the murder of his brother, he takes up Bunawar’s offer. While in prison, Rama is approached by Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of an incredibly powerful gangster, and once Rama proves his worth, he is accepted into Uco’s father’s organization.

I kind of feel like “The Raid 2” is a step up from its predecessor. When “The Raid” came out in 2012, it was a fairly simple idea. Cops come to arrest bad guys, the bad guys retaliate, all Hell breaks loose, the end. There is a much more intricate plot playing out in “The Raid 2,” and I liked that very much. Sure, a lot of it is somewhat similar to the narrative in “The Departed” but “The Raid 2” is so confident in itself that it’s hard not to love. I love Rama’s story, I also love the story of Bejo (Alex Abbad), an up-and-coming criminal secretly working with Uco in order to carve a piece of the criminal underworld out for himself. Bejo is a masterful creation and he is brought to superb life by Abbad.

The rest of the cast is supreme, all across the board. I really enjoyed the work by Uwais in the first film and that raw talent carried over into this sequel. I also liked the work by Simbara and Putra in the film. Easily the fan favorites for this film will be Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) and the actors who portray them bring them to unbelievable life. Yes, there is a woman who kills with hammers in this movie. Yes, there is a guy whose weapon(s) of choice are a baseball bat and two baseballs. Yes they are both awesome and you will love each of them.

“The Raid” was known for its gritty and barbaric action. Once again, that insane, pain-inducing action returns and it is more brutal than before. Once you see “The Raid 2,” you will immediately want to buy it. Once you buy it, you will slowly examine every action scene, right down to every punch and kick. You will then wonder how these actors pulled off these moves without sustaining heavy casualties. I don’t think I have seen more realistic hand-to-hand combat in a movie before. Even the grittiest of action films look like they are holding back in some capacity, but “The Raid 2” is ferociously authentic when it comes to its action. It isn’t just the hand-to-hand combat that is savagely-handled. There is a great car chase near the end of the film that you’ll replay at least sixteen times before continuing the film. There is no way you will see more visceral action in any movie the rest of this year, and perhaps even further into the future.

Director Gareth Evans has made a powerful one-two punch of a series here, and I can only hope that this grows into a lasting franchise. One thing is for sure, Evans has made me wish that American action looked a little bit more like this does. If you want to see some of the best action you will likely ever see anytime soon, go out and find “The Raid 2.” Right now.

FINAL GRADE: A+

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