After a second screening of The Raid 2, my feeling towards the film haven’t changed, thus a repost of my original review of the film with an added section dedicated to the dvd features
Gareth Evans’ Indonesian action film The Raid took the action and foreign film world by storm when it was released in the states two years ago. It’s one of the first films I recommend to guys who never watch foreign films because I know for a fact it’ll blow them away like it did me and nearly everyone that has seen it since (here’s my review).
Picking up where the first film left off, The Raid 2: Berandal follows Rama (Iko Uwais) as he goes deep undercover to infiltrate a powerful Jakarta criminal organization to protect his family and expose corruption within the police force. Essentially, Rama must act as a long-term undercover internal affairs agent, becoming the right-hand man for Keiichi, the son of the crime syndicate’s boss, Bangun, until he is able to expose Reza, the commissioner of the department, for the crook that he is.
If you’ve seen the first film, you can already tell that the plot is much more developed than that of the original. While the above is pretty basic, there is much more to the film. Rama must go through a lot in order to work his way into the syndicate and then, while in the syndicate, we learn that two other characters desire to rule the criminal underworld, creating other plotlines that lead to deception, traitorous actions, and brutal violence, an excellent combination for an action film looking to get people invested in both the story and characters.
People are going to love Evans’ second installment in the eventual Raid trilogy (yes, this was planned as a trilogy from the outset). It may not be 101 min. of non-stop balls-to-the-wall action like the first film but it sure as hell manages to take the actions scenes that do exist tin the film and ramp them up to a whole new level. The camerawork is equally impressive and some of the shots we get emphasize how brutal some of the action is, creating imagery that’ll leave your jaw dropped. But the real reason I know why anyone that’s a fan of the first film is going to love this one is simple, someone in my screening jumped up yelling “whooo, that was awesome” while putting up his hands to give the field goal symbol. Yup, that happened and I fully supported his decision to do it.
There are two incredible fight scenes in the film that I want to highlight, though there are plenty of other brutally fantastic ones, and they are the prison yard mud brawl and the climactic final fights. These are, I believe, the two longest fights in the film. The mud brawl is the fight that sets up the entire film and puts the brutality you can expect to see on display so that you know what you’re in for. It’s a chaotic and sloppy scene, due to the mud, that continually gets better as it progresses. The final fights are basically the match-ups between Rama and the muscle for Bejo, one of the criminals looking to gain power. The three characters are Hammer Girl, Baseball Bat Man, and The Assassin (this guy’s weapon of choice are two kerambit-short curved knives). These are the coolest characters in the film and the battles that goes down are the stuff of legends.
Most people will leave the theater with testosterone levels through the roof and blood pumping, ready to beat the shit out of anything that gets in their way, but they’ll all be willing to admit that the film isn’t perfect. The Raid 2 is a great movie but there’s a little too much fat that was left on the body. I’d say if 15 minutes were cut from the 148 minute film we’d have an amazing action film instead of a great one. Both versions would still fall under my f*ckin awesome” category but there wouldn’t be the disclaimer to go with it. I attribute some of this to Evans’ attempt to create a big story oriented and character driven action film rather than just straight action like his prior film and thus having difficulty editing out those story elements he finds important.
Regardless of its minor flaws The Raid 2: Berandal will be a hard film to knock off the podium for best action film of the year, it’s just crazy awesome. Gareth Evans has once again knocked me off my feet with his expertly choreographed action scenes, intense cinematography, atmospheric score and, this time, even a solid story. If you haven’t seen the first film yet, stop what you’re doing and go check it out, if you have then make sure to get your ass to the theater on March 28th for round two, you won’t be disappointed.
Movie Rating: A brutally violent and blood pumping action crime thriller that sets the new standard for bad-ass action films (8.5/10)
As for the DVD, the film comes with a couple of bonus features.
Director Commentary with Gareth Huw Evans – Feature Length
“The Next Chapter: Shooting a Sequel” (10:47) – Behind the scenes footage and theatrical footage cut with interviews from a majority of the case and a few crew members like Director Evans himself. It’s a nice quick run through of the shoot, the importance of each character, how they all have an impact on the flow of the story and how all 19 fight scenes are vital to moving the plot along. The film is seen as an ensemble film which explains why so much time is dedicated to each character. One of the cooler aspects of this featurette is when they talk about the cinematography and shooting the film. The action choreographer and other fighters talk about their scenes, one particularly interesting bit was that they brought in a HK car stunt team to help with the car chase. For that chase they had to close roads in the middle of Jakarta midday during the week and complete some of the stunts at high speeds. They showed some cool, yet simple, camera trickery that allowed the team to get crazy cool shots by passing a camera from one car to another. This featurette was pretty cool even if it started out as a generic one.
Cinefamily Foundation Q&A with Gareth Huw Evans, Iko Uwais & Joe Trapanese (44:07) – A long post-screening Q&A where the aforementioned men discuss the film, the action, the score, sequels and more. Some of the questions are answered in the commentary, in the above featurette and can be found in my past interviews with two of the guys.
Overall, the DVD is pretty light on features so I’d opt for the better looking Blu-ray version, which also happens to come with some more behind-the-scenes bonus features and deleted scenes.
DVD rating: 4/10
The Raid 2 is now available on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment