The Raid 2, on paper, should not exist - indeed, the background to the original sounds like the start of a really weird joke.
What do you get when you mix a Welsh director with only two movies to his name, a spattering of non-English speaking actors, and a hardcore martial-arts tale set and filmed in Indonesia?
As all film fans luckily enough to have seen The Raid now know, the answer was 'something (perhaps unexpectedly) amazing'.
Which is why anticipation for Gareth Evan's The Raid 2: Berandal amongst genre fans has reached fever pitch. Thankfully, we're happy to report, it'll not only please the faithful, but has the potential to astound a whole new audience, too.
While the first blew fans away with its kinetic action scenes, confined setting, and relatively simple plot, The Raid 2: Berandal manages to expand upon everything fans loved from the first, and then blow the barn doors off the genre to create something adrenalising in not only its action scenes, but its scope.
The plot magnifies The Raid's universe enormously - while the movie starts mere minutes after the first one ends, the world we knew before (a corrupt tower block full of psychotic killers) is just the tip of the insanity iceberg. Before long, Rama (Iko Uwais) is forced to go undercover within a ruthless Jakarta crime syndicate to save his family, and things only get crazier, more hardcore and relentlessly breathtaking from there.
Highlights include an easy contender for best car chase of the year (and yes, we know it's only January), a freewheeling 30-40 person mud-bath fight-off, a spectacularly choreographed three way fight between Rama, and the appropriately named Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, and a nightclub takedown that's a masterclass in how to pace an action scene.
And while it weighs in at a mind-bogglingly-long-for-an-action-movie run time of around two and a half hours, each and every fight scene feels unique. Throw in a more gripping narrative that takes in the betrayal, murder and corruption of two warring crime syndicate dynasties, and there's more than enough to keep you entertained.
It's unlikely to convert those of a non-action-movie disposition, but for those who enjoy thrills and action-packed spills, you're guaranteed to leave on a giddy high.
Ultimately, The Raid 2: Berandal is a movie that - pleasingly - baffles in its conception and execution; that Evans can make an action movie so dense, thrilling, original and accomplished after only three feature length movies of his own is - like the movie itself - more than a little crazy and exciting.
Bring on The Raid 3.
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