The Raid 2: Berandal
Directed by: Gareth Evans Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Julie Estelle Running Time: 2 hrs 30 mins Rating: R Release Date: April 4, 2014 (Chicago)
PLOT: An undercover cop in Jakarta (Uwais) finds himself in the middle of volcanic tensions between neighboring gangs.
WHO'S IT FOR? Actions fans, meet your new favorite movie.
In an age where the spectacle of an action film can be purchased with CGI, the one element that pushes the evolution of action, and separates the orderly from the delightfully insane, is a sense of ambition. In multiplex context, it is the component that fueled Justin Lin in his Fast & Furious movies to elevate the significance of the entire franchise, by turning it into a showcase of stunt work and dedicated pre-planning. Even more tremendous than that, ambition is the life-source for writer/director Gareth Evans, a Welshman who created a home for himself in Indonesia to pursue his goal of making fantastic action movies. With his breakout hit The Raid: Redemption he used this ambition for the amount of fight sequences fit into one film, and the length for each combat. He created a non-stop collection of choreographed fights that are so progressively exhilarating they don't get tiresome, while also pushing the limits of his camera. With determination for perfect cuts and shots to create a fluid experience of chaos, The Raid: Redemption also marked the showcase of a bona fide filmmaker, an artist who expresses in kung fu a Tim's Vermeer-like dedication to hard work — if you keep pushing it, eventually you will paint your masterpiece.
In 2011, I talked to Evans on the press tour for The Raid: Redemption about what was going to come next; in the not-so original method of journalism of asking how he was going to top the film. He mentioned something that stuck with me, but nonetheless was perfect of his attitude. Dream first, create reality later. "We've got a prison fight planned. I don't know how we're going to do it!" Nonetheless, three impatient years later, that prison riot is within his sequel The Raid 2: Berandal, and it is larger and more insane than anything one could imagine from the expectations of those who feel like they have seen the most from the action genre. It is also a part of a film that strives to be bigger than The Raid: Redemption, where the scope isn't just in fight scenes, but a grandiose narrative itself. For whatever thoughts one may have had about The Raid: Redemption not having much plot or heart, Evans retorts with his massive undertaking. His sequel's story, which clocks at nearly 150 minutes and features a collection of characters, each with their own space in the story, is his latest expression of ambition.
Represented in a sequence in which specific characters are killed by hitmen/women, this is Evans' attempt to reach The Godfather. Not in terms of quality, but the landscape for which he is trying to tell his story. Without spoiling much, The Raid 2: Berandal is much bigger than Iko Uwais' character Rama, a police chief who goes undercover for years under a crime family like the Corleones, who are clashing with another with another gang. Fathers fail their sons, sons fail their fathers, and Rama is at the center of it all.
Nonetheless, this sequel advances from its original source by also entertaining its audience with the type of drama one may not expect. As storyteller, Evans doesn't quite have the arrangement to make it all stick, considering the many different individuals and crime families that are involved. The Raid 2: Berandal has a pretty straight line with its Rama focus, but the way in which Evans tries to make things interesting can be complicated as they are admirable. As much as one can love The Raid: Redemption, one has to certainly enjoy that Evans didn't try to remake that film. At the very least, it provides an excellent excuse for a second viewing.
But, Evans' creme de la creme remains his action. No one is making films like this now. When it comes to the spectacle of ass-kicking, Evans is a purist, and he creates pure visuals in return. The energy in a scene is constant; evildoers do not wait around taking turns when fighting someone, they attack all at once. Scenes are expertly choreographed but focused on real pain that they never look too organized to hurt. The movie's amount of violence, no doubt overwhelming for some, shows the lengths that human beings will go to fight. Sequences carry on for unusual amounts of time and it is all the more visceral the amount of adrenaline pumping within these characters as they turn each occasion into a fight or death experience, kill or be killed.
When capturing this, Evans' filmmaking is smooth as butter. There is expert coverage of space for each fighting, and the editing is precise to allow the reality to sink in before a cut changes perspective. It remains to be seen in time how glorious The Raid 2: Berandal is in the scope of its genre, but this film pushes potential in every way. Slightly dinged by its knotted story, The Raid 2: Berandal is yet another incredible feat from a director who spoils action fans. This sequel doesn't just raise the bar for his own filmmaking, but the entire genre itself. Your move, everybody else.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10