Take The Raid: Redemption, possibly the greatest action movie ever made, and add in a plot that is part The Godfather and part The Departed and you’ve got The Raid 2: Berendal, without question the undisputed best action movie sequel ever.
For now, fans of the first installment can be satisfied that this sequel not only blows away their expectations, but will leave them similarly breathless and wincing in their chairs in amazement of the carnage they’ve just witnessed.
Director/Writer Gareth Evans takes the more challenging journey of bothering to come up with a compelling storyline to accompany the mayhem and over-the-top violence. Those expecting Redemption’s frantic pace of another action scene every 10 minutes may be initially disappointed with Evans’ restraint in not just creating another battle-heavy film.
It’s a dramatic shift from Redemption, but Evans’ decision to opt for more character development clearly pays off as the film progresses and he builds to an INSANE final that is every bit worth the wait.
Picking up almost exactly from where Redemption left off, Rama (Iko Uwais) has survived the tenement battle and is forced to go undercover to keep his family safe. His assignment lands him in a prison where he befriends Uco (a commanding Arifin Putra), son of the powerful crimelord Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo).
After establishing his new identity and gaining Uco’s trust, Rama is brought in to Bangun’s inner circle and tasked with keeping Uco safe. That proves harder than Rama anticipates as Uco’s ambitions threaten to ruin his father’s empire and upset the delicate truce between Bangun’s forces and the rival Japanese gang.
On the outskirts stands Bejo (Alex Abbad), a would-be mover and shaker who has grown tired of biding his time to become a main player on the crime circuits. And with an army of deadly assassins including a hammer-wielding woman (Julie Estelle) and baseball bat carrying guy (Very Tri Yulisman), he’s got the means to make a serious power grab.
Evans’ script ties in themes of family, honor and ambition to satisfying results despite the film’s 148-min. length. Despite just his second film coming to mainstream audiences, Uwais has now kicked and punched his way near the top of the list of elite of all-time movie martial artists. Here, he proves just as adept in handling the non-action scenes.
The jaw-dropping fight scenes may be the main attraction, but don’t slight Evans’ directorial work. He shoots with a clear understanding that the audience is most impressed by martial arts mastery when they can actually see the action.
Evans uses long tracking shots to let the fight breathe and have room to play out without hyperactive editing. The fighting is unlike anything you’ve seen since Redemption and makes Evans looks like he’s on an entirely different level than other action directors. Working with a larger budget than Redemption’s reported $1.1 million, Evans adds some new elements including a muddy prison yard fight and a car chase scene done Raid style.
The Raid 2 is about as perfect a sequel you can get with a more involving story added to the crazy relentless action making for an experience that will leave fans exhausted from cheering and anxiously awaiting the next installment.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Akhirwan Nurhaidir and Gumilar Triyoga/Sony Pictures Classics