Back in 2011, Gareth Evans unleashed The Raid into cinemas. It was a non-stop thrill ride of an action movie that made the world sit up and take notice of the genre once again. For too long had action movies been too willing to hold back the punches.
Evans has always said he has an idea for a trilogy of films but the one question on my mind was; How could he possibly top a film like The Raid?
The answer is The Raid 2. It sounds a bit simple but that’s because it is. The Raid 2 is as hard-hitting as its predecessor but goes that extra length to make it stand out. It’s both larger in scale and wider in scope, allowing Evans to develop a story based amongst the criminal underworld of Jakarta, briefly mentioned in The Raid.
Think of this as The Raid meets The Departed. It is a full-blown crime epic with a hint of martial arts, well a heavy hint of martial arts.
The Raid 2 takes place merely a couple of hours after the events of the first film. SWAT officer Rama (Iko Uwais), having made it out of the tower block alive, goes undercover to infiltrate the Jakarta crime syndicate and uncover the corruption within his own police force.
Rama makes a huge sacrifice by going undercover in a notorious prison to get close to Ucok (Arifin Putra), the only son of Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo), the feared mob boss in control of all criminal activity in Jakarta.
Rama proves his worth to Ucok during an utterly staggering prison riot. Around 30 prisoners start the riot and are soon joined by an army of riot police in a muddied prison yard that will leave you amazed at how these guys had the energy to film in such conditions. Just picture the muddy scenes at Glastonbury a few years ago and that is pretty much what they are fighting in, surely a contender for the largest mud wrestle on record ever!
Having protected Ucok during the riots, Rama is taken under the wing of mob boss Bangun and this is where the story really kicks into gear. The Raid had a simple premise with a SWAT team fighting for their lives in a tower block full of criminals. It was simple yet effective stuff. What Evans has managed to do so well with The Raid 2 is to still keep it simple but set it in a much wider environment. The undercover element is simple to follow but the greater array of characters in the criminal underworld will keep you guessing at who will double-cross who.
The performances are just about spot-on from all involved. Iko Uwais as Rama and Arifin Putra as Ucok in particular the highlights for me. Who said good acting doesn’t belong in an action movie?
The main selling point of The Raid 2 is obviously going to be the action set-pieces and its many fight scenes. I thought The Raid was spectacular but trust me when I say, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Evans’ action epic speeds through a marathon 150 minute runtime with some quite glorious action sequences and fight scenes. The most impressive is a car chase to rival any seen before, featuring three cars and a motorbike. Doesn’t sound too great but when you consider one car contains Rama fighting four men, it just gets a whole lot better. I didn’t want to blink in case I missed any of it.
The car chase is just the start of the final act that will keep you well and truly on the edge of your seat. The final 45 minutes sees Rama battle Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman), that really is their names, in an absolutely incredible fight scene before a final showdown in a kitchen with The Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman).
Rama vs The Assassin is just a ludicrously entertaining fight scene that had the audience gasping in sheer and utter disbelief at what they were seeing. What makes this particular fight more impressive is that it is just between two guys. Even though there are fight scenes featuring around 40-50 men, Rama vs The Assassin is the one that entertained me the most, particularly when it reaches its climax.
I cannot give enough praise to work that goes on behind the scenes of each action sequence. The meticulous planning and the choreography for each fight scene is just unbelievable. It must be so satisfying to see all the hours of hard work ultimately pay-off and to see audiences around the world loving each and every second of it.
With the film being as violent as it is, there will always be people who take a disliking to it such as the 60 year old couple that got up and left after 45 minutes of the film. However, the majority of the audience loved it, with some even giving it a standing ovation during the end credits.
If The Raid took action movies to new heights then The Raid 2 soars above, looking down on it from action movie heaven. It is surely only a matter of time before Hollywood sees sense and puts a talent like Gareth Evans at the helm of a big budget action blockbuster. Before any of that though, the final act of the trilogy beckons and I simply cannot wait.