I was looking through several of my older reviews and there was one film that kept coming up: The Raid 2. So I decided I would do a retro review of it, as The Raid 2 was not just one of the best films of 2014, but one of my favourite films of all time.
The Raid 2 stars Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Alex Abbad and Yayan Ruhian and is directed by Gareth Evans. The Raid 2 starts an hour after the end of The Raid, where rookie cop Rama (Uwais), after escaping the tower block in the first film is sent undercover to infiltrate a criminal empire.
Most martial arts films have thread-bare stories (just look at nearly all the films in the Bruce Lee Collection). The Raid also fell prey to this, with the only plot being “try to survive”. Thankfully, The Raid 2 has a lot deeper story, something akin to Goodfellas or The Departed/Infernal Affairs, as Rama goes undercover to keep is family safe. While the plot is still a device to bring the next extended punch-up along, it’s quite a good gangster/cop drama.
With this deeper story, the film’s length shoots up, from a simple 90 minutes in the first film to well over two hours in the second. This is where I hear a lot of fans of the first film complaining, as the second film isn’t as much wall-to-wall action as its predecessor. I can kind of see their problem with The Raid 2. By the end the film can feel like it’s running out of steam, so even while we get the final showdown between Rama and the main bad guys, my investment in the film has drained considerably since the first fight scene.
While several of the first films actors were just stunt-doubles and fighting champions doing their best to act as a police squad, The Raid 2 flexes it’s tale of gang warfare and deceit by adding in several top actors into major roles. Several actors, such as Afrin Putra as mob boss’ son Uco, or said mob boss Bangun, played by Tio Pakusadewo are great to watch and listen to and ultimately make the down-time in between the protracted fight scenes fun and interesting. The stand out though is Alex Abbad as Bejo, a mystery man who appears out of nowhere in a bid to create his own crime empire by teaming up with Uco. Abbad is a master at projecting a thin veneer of style and smarts but who is always a thread away from snapping and going nuts with a shotgun (which he does).
The fight scenes, inevitably, are amazing. While The Raid was one of the main films that gave birth to the long-take, brutal and bloody style of fighting, with some excellent stand out moments (The machete gang fight is still one of the most memorable fight scenes I’ve ever watched), The Raid 2 surpasses it with both sheer numbers of fights as well as signature fighters. The Assassin, with his twin karambits, Hammer Girl with her claw hammers (a small nod to Oldboy) and Baseball-bat Boy, whose fights get even cooler when he starts bringing in the baseballs, these are all memorable characters and their fight scenes are some of the best of the film, if not some of the best character introductions ever.
While I already mentioned the length of the film as one of my top bugs, the other problem I had with The Raid 2 is the inclusion of Yayan Ruhian again as a minor character in the film. Ruhian was one of the main antagonists in the first film, playing Mad Dog, the contract killer of the tower block. In The Raid 2, he seems to be playing the same character type as one of Bangun’s assassins. It took me a while to realise that he was playing a different character and that they weren’t just ret-conning one of the major characters from the first film.
In conclusion, The Raid 2 builds upon its success of its predecessor with even more violence and mesmerising stunt work, while also managing to add a bit of story behind all the punching.
Score: 10/10 Quite possibly the greatest action movie ever created.