Proving that they sometimes still do make ’em like they used to, Gareth Evans’ breakout heavy-hitter The Raid felt like playing your favourite ’80s arcade machine with a pocketful of 50ps. Uping the ante, the budget and the running time, the sequel manages to keep things feeling refreshingly old-school – all the while sinking a rusty claw-hammer into the heads of every other action movie that it piles up beneath its new throne.
Where a lesser, lazier director might have just re-run the original movie’s claustrophobic action in a direct locale (à la Die Hard 2), Evans takes a braver route – hitting the streets and taking on a hefty, twisty plot that aims no lower than The Godfather meets Infernal Affairs. Supercop Rama (Iko Uwais) is still on the force, still picking up the pieces of his rookie mission.
Sent undercover to bring down the Jakarta mob, he finds himself in prison within the first 10 minutes (and in the middle of a riot in 12). In truth, story still isn’t Evans’ strong suit. Overstuffing its two and a half hours with police corruption, gang warfare and backstabbing politicians, The Raid 2 looks bloated next to the first film’s lean chop-socky – not that it matters once the bones start breaking.
The toilet cubical… The prison yard… The restaurant… The car chase… As each jaw-flooring set-piece gets bigger and better than the last, The Raid starts to look more like a teaser trailer in comparison. ‘Baseball Bat Man’ (Very Tri Yulisman), ‘Hammer Girl’ (Julie Estelle) and Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian) are the new end-of-level bosses – each partaking of some of the most intense, visceral and gratuitously violent action in living memory.
So smartly staged and perfectly performed are the fights that Evans gives his heroes a run for their money – he’s as cool as Tarantino, as slick as Spielberg and more inventive than Jackie Chan in a prop cupboard. And all that’s before the last half hour, when the film somehow finds another gear and accelerates into a grand finale that’s impossible to watch without feeling winded.
And therein lies the real power of The Raid 2. Crafted more like a cardiac experience than a movie, it builds and rebuilds into a symphony of violence – a cathartic explosion of cultish, cinematic joy that batters the senses and fuels nostalgia for a time when real heroes didn’t wear spandex. Distilling, bottling and spiking his own formula, Evans takes a swing at the whole action genre – and lands a knockout.
Evans supplies a full-length commentary and there’s a bundle of behind-the-scenes footage showcasing the intense prep that goes in to all the fisticuffs. Kudos in particular to the stunt/FX guy camouflaged as a car seat…
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