Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Julie Estelle
Running Time: 150 min
Indonesian actioner The Raid came out of nowhere in 2011 to give the stale action genre a shot in the arm – and a fist in the face. Combining clammy suspense with breathless martial arts action, it was a lean and brutal breath of fresh air. Three years later, and with a sizeable budget increase, Welsh director Gareth Evans has returned with The Raid 2, and against all odds has managed to surpass his own film.
The Raid 2 picks up moments after the ending of the original film, and finds surviving rookie officer Rama (Uwais) being recruited by a task force to help bring down corrupt elements inside the Jakarta police department. He’s sent undercover to a prison to infiltrate a powerful gang, and after proving his worth he’s recruited into their ranks. He’s soon caught in the middle of a bloody gang war that engulfs the city, and once again finds himself in a desperate battle to survive.
One thing that’s immediately apparent with The Raid 2 is the increase in scope. It’s no longer a claustrophobic thriller but a full blown crime epic. Whereas the original film was criticized for its relative dearth of plot, The Raid 2 tells an expansive story with multiple lead characters and subplots. And while the 150 minute runtime may seem excessive for what’s essentially an action film, it’s such an absorbing ride that the length rarely feels like an issue. There are occasional lulls in the story, and the amount of subplots can create confusion over some character’s agendas, but the film is never too far from its next show stopping action setpiece to compensate.
The selling point of the movie is of course the action sequences, and they are, simply put, stunning. These scenes are infused with an energy and intensity rarely seen in modern cinema, and it’s extremely unlikely that another movie this year will come with better action. From the muddy prison riot, to “Hammer Girl’s” (Julie Estelle) apocalyptically gory fight on a train to Rama’s final showdown with a knife wielding villain, every fight is as visceral and exhilarating as the last. Like it’s processor it’s a bloody, brutal experience, so the weak of stomach need not apply. Also of note is the films fluid camera work and rich cinematography, which brings a surprising elegant to the violent nature of the story.
The Raid 2 is the action film of the year. A slightly flabby plot slows it down on occasion, but as a rush of pure adrenaline it’s an unbeatable experience. If Evans decides to make The Raid 3, he’s going to have a very hard time topping his work here.