The Raid 2: Berandal: Movie Review
Cast: Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad
Director: Gareth Evans
"It's a question of ambition"
The first words spoken in The Raid 2: Berandal - and all throughout, Evans' ambition shines on like a beacon of directorial delight.
Not long after the first Raid movie finished, shortly after rookie cop Rama (Uwais) chop-sockied his way out of a building piled high with gangsters and bad guys, the sequel takes up. Suddenly, Rama finds himself asked to help weedle out the corruption within the system and enter the world of gangsters, gang warfare and an uneasy truce that's existed for more than a decade.
Despite his initial refusal to do so, the quest to do good is irresistible to Rama - and he finds himself in a world where he's not the biggest fish and there are some pretty dangerous predators around.
The Raid 2: Berandal is an exceptionally impressive sequel that ups the ante of the first and shows no sign of resting on its laurels.
Evans has settled for the epic, and has certainly achieved that goal more often than not throughout its slightly overlong 2 and a half hours run time. If The Raid proved one thing, it's that a single man, with his fists and a knack for taking on the system could prove to be an incredibly visceral thrill. Certainly, the second reaches the dizzying highs of the first - and then amply exceeds them.
A series of set pieces prove almost balletic in their execution - from a major fight in a prison that becomes a muddy swamp scrap for survival to a final showdown that's likely to have you punching the air, this is an adrenaline packed ride that brings much originality and freshness to the action movie. Evans has directorial flair as well - using his camera to showcase a toilet fight from above and in a bravura extended car chase sequence, a fight within the back seat of the car. He's got vision and scope for the sequel that's jawdropping and fulfilled in every frame.
It's these moments that help lift the film from the predictability that annoyingly lurks in the background. The gang warfare story feels a little cliched and has been done many times before; a slightly bloated saggy middle section creaks with pointless re-exposition and almost flatlines as it sidelines our hero for turf war and attempts to channel Shakespearean type levels of betrayal (that don't quite meet the highs). But it's to Uwais' credit that he makes every moment count, perfectly encapsulating the conflict of trying to do what he believes is right but fighting his inner demons that perhaps he's out of his depth. A nuanced and restrained turn from our hero gives the emotional edge to the terrifically engaging and adrenaline-pumped action moments.
And there are so many of those - along with Hammer Girl (a half-blind deaf mute whose MO involves, erm, hammers), this is a film whose sequel surpasses the original and delivers more than a kick to the head - it fires a shot in the arm of action movies and audience expectations for them. Beautifully choreographed frenetic fights flow like liquid, and leave the mind boggling over how many takes were needed; but serve to show how much of a talent Uwais is.
As the body count builds in the final act, you forgive the occasional creaks, the odd moment of weird characterisation (chiefly, a hobo looking aide to one family, who kicks serious ass but also has serious daddy issues); they all fade into the distance - because The Raid 2: Berandal packs a powerfully brutal punch, delivers a clear-cut KO to the genre and makes these kinds of movies all kinds of cool once again.