May 7, 2014 by Paul Curtin
Coming out of almost nowhere, 2012’s The Raid: Redemption was easily one of the best martial arts films in years. The low budget Indonesian ultraviolent action instantly won over fight film fans and critics alike. Now, two years later, director/writer Gareth Evans with some of the cast and crew are back with a bigger budget and one of the most badass sequels ever.
The Raid 2 picks up right where the original left off, so if you haven’t watched the first one… what are you doing? Go do that now! Reprising his role as Rama is Iko Uwais. Fresh out of the Jakarta slums, he is informed that there are much bigger players out there pulling the strings above the big boss he just took out. In order to protect his family, Rama agrees to go undercover at a prison in order to befriend crime lord Bangun’s son Uco.
After some very intense fight sequences staged in a bathroom stall and muddy prison yard, Rama wins Uco’s trust. The film then flashes forward two years to when Rama gets out and is picked up and brought into the family by Uco. What then follows is similar to Infernal Affairs (the original The Departed) where Rama gets in deeper and deeper with the mob family, and the bodies start stacking up more and more for the rivaling Indonesian and Japanese gangs.
As the story progresses, characters begin showing up just as fast as others are being killed off. Evans’ willingness to kill off main characters at any time keeps the tensions high throughout the entire runtime as you never know who might die next. New characters like Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man seem heavily inspired by comics, video games, or Tarantino films — I would say why they’re amazing, but their names alone are all the explanation you’ll need without me giving any spoilers away.
But with so many characters, the story can at times be a bit convoluted, leaving you wanting to know more about each one. At times the story can even be downright confusing and unnecessary, such as in the case of Yayan Ruhian, who plays a key character in the first film (who dies) and is now playing a completely different character in the sequel with longer hair.
New addition Arifin Putra (who should be cast right away in The Crow remake) plays Uco and is by far the highlight of the sequel’s greater emphasis on story. Even with there being far more emphasis on the story this time, The Raid 2 clocks in at almost a full hour longer than the original, so don’t worry; there’s still plenty of time for the lead actor, Iko Uwais, to do what he does best and kick a whole hell of a lot of ass.
Just like the original, Uwais’ fighting is in a league of its own, once again making kung-fu classics look cheesy and even managing to top the action of the original. Just when you think the fighting can’t get any crazier or more violent, it does… over and over again, proving that with the right talent, $4 million films can rival that of $400 million. The sequel features much larger scale hand-to-hand combat and hands down one of the wildest car chases ever. The film isn’t scored by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park like the original, but composer Joseph Trapanese (Oblivion / Fast Five) has stepped up to always set the right mood for each intense moment.
With the combination of epic music, slow-motion, and stunning visual shots, I found myself constantly smiling in excitement before or during almost every fight scene — which is rare these days with action films being so similar and always playing it safe. As soon as the film was over, I wanted to watch it again. There are tons of bone-crushing fight scenes that are going to require multiple viewings once the film hits video.
By stepping out of the dark and dreary apartment slums and into a much bigger open city world, Evans has clearly used the increased budget to make the film he wanted to do all along. There is no question that he is one of the best when it comes to shooting fight porn. While the sequel has its share of flaws, almost everything is bigger and better than the original and even has its share of funny moments in between people getting their faces blown off. The film easily earns its R rating. If you loved The Raid and were hoping for an even wilder and more violent sequel, then you won’t be disappointed by one of the greatest martial arts films ever made. The Raid 2 gets 4.5 out of 5 stars (Amazing).