‘The Raid 2’: More plot this time between the carnage
By BRUCE INGRAM For Sun-Times Media April 3, 2014 1:48PM
Rama (Iko Uwais, left) battles a foe (Cecep Arif Rahman) in “The Raid 2.” | SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
‘THE RAID 2’ ★★★1⁄2
Rama Iko Uwais
Uco Arifin Putra
Bangun Tio Pakusodewo
Bejo Alex Abbad
Sony Pictures Classics presents a film written and directed by Gareth Evans. In Indonesian and Japanese with English subtitles. Running time: 148 minutes. Rated R (for strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language). Opens Friday at local theaters,
Updated: May 5, 2014 7:08AM
Make no mistake. If what you’re after is insane, mind-bogglingly violent martial arts action, “The Raid 2” is quite possibly the ultimate.
Some might argue that distinction should go to its simpler, stripped-down 2011 predecessor about a rookie cop (Indonesian Silat champion Iko Uwais) fighting his way through hundreds of armed henchmen to arrest a major drug dealer on the top floor of an apartment building. “The Raid 2” is essentially an extension of the original, though, with the same super-saturation of viciously brutal combat and the same dazzlingly stylized visual flourishes from British-born writer-director-editor Gareth Evans. Only this time, the slaughter has more of an epic quality and there’s more plot to keep track of between maulings.
Quite a bit more plot, actually, making this sequel play more like a martial-arts-movie equivalent of Scorsese’s “The Departed,” if not the “Godfather” saga. Whether or not the crowd that thrilled to the story-optional carnage of “The Raid: Redemption” will appreciate all the dramatic complications (which increase this film’s running time by nearly an hour) is debatable.
After miraculously (and somewhat ridiculously) emerging from the first film with only a few bruises, honest cop Rama (Uwais) is told that the only way to save himself and his family from reprisals is to go back undercover and root out the real bad guys: Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), the crime lord who rules Jakarta, and a high-ranking corrupt police official. That means getting himself sent to prison, where he becomes friendly with Bangun’s imprisoned son Uco (Arifin Putra) and then hired by treacherously ambitious Uco and his father and gradually becoming embroiled in a turf war with Bangun’s Japanese gangster rivals.
The long, increasingly complicated scenario, populated by an intriguing assortment of bizarre supporting characters (including a couple known as Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Guy), has at least one structural benefit: It provides a little dramatic down time between outbreaks of ultra-violence. Until the gang war is declared, that is, and the bloodletting more or less becomes nonstop.
At that point, you’re likely to fall into one of two camps (assuming you’ve had the stomach to make it this far). You’ll either be delighted that Evans has finally, seriously gotten down to business, or a certain numbness will start to set in. Personally, I find there’s only a certain amount of bone snapping, rapid-fire stabbing, throat slitting, head crushing, facial griddle-sizzling, etc., that can be taken in before mayhem fatigue sets in — and it all starts to seem a bit tedious.
The saving grace throughout, aside from the enjoyment of watching Uwais do his lighting-quick thing, is Evans’ highly stylish cinematic flair, which frequently gives the mayhem in “Raid 2” a lush, almost poetic quality. In the middle of a pitched battle between one man and dozens of attackers, for example, the director cuts to a silent, snow-covered alley. Which doesn’t stay white long after the bloody conflict erupts through a side door.
Even if it makes you feel like covering your eyes from time to time, “Raid 2” is always worth a look.