The Raid 2: Berandal Review
Posted by Terry Lewis on 04.04.2014
It's time to travel to director Gareth Evans' vision of Asian action films again with The Raid 2: Berandal. But does this follow up enhance and reinforce their status as instant classics? Or is it the start of a possible coming down for Evans? 411's Terry Lewis takes a look!
Iko Uwais - Rama / Yuda Arifin Puta - Uco Tio Pakusadewo - Bangun Oka Antara - Eka Alex Abbad - Bejo Cecep Arif Rahman - The Assassin Julie Estelle - Alicia / "Hammer Girl" Very Tri Yulisman - "Baseball Bat Man" Kenichi Endo - Goto Ryuhei Matsuda - Keiichi Yayan Ruhian - Prakoso Cok Simbara - Bunawar Roy Marten - Reza
Once upon a time - well eight years ago - Welsh director Gareth Evans fell in love with a style of martial art called pencak silat after being charged with making a documentary about it. He also met Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais and the two collaborated in cult hit Merantau. With big plans in the booming Indonesian film industry, Evans set about creating an epic crime tale against the backdrop of martial arts action genre. However, realising he wasn't able to get the budget to realise his vision, he put his energy into creating The Raid: Redemption. With the worldwide critical acclaim that film brought him and Uwais, Evans returns with his finally realised vision of an Indonesian crime action film in The Raid 2: Berandal.
Picking up where the first film left off, Rama (Uwais) is hauled in front of the chief of a small anti-corruption unit in the Police who tell him he has to go undercover to take out a Jakara crime family to stand a chance of him and his family surviving revenge attacks, after the events of the first Raid. Rama adopts the persona of Yuda and begins to develop a bond in prison with Uco (Arifin Puta), crime family boss Bangun's (Tio Pakusadewo) son. After his release and saving Uco, Yuda rises in stock as a heavy until Uco's quest for power with the rival crime boss Bejo (Alex Abbad) puts everyone and the streets of Jakara at stake.
Competing with his own work done in The Raid was never going to be an easy feat, but Evans has successfully created a sequel as good if not better than the instant classic first. The Raid 2: Berandal is filled with some of the best action film sequences you will see ever - not just this year. I'm talking about from here until you die, you will be pressed to find better choreographed, better shot and more physical action sequences. It is all well shot and easy to follow which complete trashes previous Western cinema Bourne Identity imitators who do that super close-up shakey cam rubbish so you can't see the whole shot. You can tell this film is a labor of love through the ambitious and complex sequences which involve a good three to five minute rolling series of action, usually with no cuts and proper physical interaction.
In a varied range of amazing action sequences, all of the action shot looks like it hurts like hell when it comes to martial arts fights. All of the weapon blows' impact are captured in masterful editing which encapsulate sickening crunches when someone is spiked in the back by the sharp end of a claw hammer and the thud when a face is caved in by a baseball bat. I'm still at a loss as to how they filmed the top draw car chase sequence which ends with a goon flying through a windscreen without actually killing a man in the process. I don't really have a problem with violence on screen, especially as the escapism intension shown in Raid 2 , and if anything it's more realistic than done for a reaction violence and gore in other culture's cinema. It adds to the film and it's unsafe filmmaking above and beyond the norm and Evans should be applauded for going down this route. The encapsulation of this is in the final real fight sequence between Yuda and The Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman) in the kitchen. Two martial artists go one-on-one in a five minute brutal fight sequence, stealing weapons from each other after being respectful at first to gain an upper hand. All the time, there is this building, engrossing piece of music which builds up with the fight intensity until both reach a crescendo and the winner is silently declared. In terms of a mano-on-mano fight and physical emotion, I don't think I have ever seen anything as good as that and I don't think I will ever see anything as good as that ever again.
Raid 2 gives Evans the opportunity to reveal his vision for an Asian crime flick, and it's one hell of an ambitious vision. This really is The Indonesian version of The Sopranos. With More Kicks To The Face. We're introduced to a massive, well suited cast filled with a mix of straight and colourful characters, playing off each other to screw each other over for territory. Whilst it's nothing new, this is the gangster tropes done absolutely perfectly with plenty of double crosses, sit downs and claims. There are reams of martial artist gimmicks and engrossing characters for all to enjoy. Whilst some may prefer the pure brutality of "Hammer Girl" (Julie Estelle) and "Baseball Bat Man" (Very Tri Yulisman - his delivery of "Bring Back The Ball" is chilling), I found myself attached to Yayan Ruhian's Prakoso more. Not only has he gone through an undistinguishable transformation from his badass villain character Mad Dog from The Raid, but Ruhian brings a certain emotional weight as a hobo-esque hitman with a machette, yet is only doing it to pay money to his estranged wife and never seen son.
To be honest, some characters have barely enough screen time and you are left wanting more yet Evans does give them something to do which makes them extremely memorable and fun. Prakoso is the hired gun hobo assassin with a machette. Bejo is a sunglasses wearing, limping, cane always in one hand crime boss. There's always something to associate and flesh out characters featured away from something like assassin with mini scythes. The ones that do feature prominently are well acted out. Given the remit of the film, Uwais is pretty damn good at focussing at the heavier aspects of the storyline. The calls to his boss about the stress at being undercover are strong and the call to his son who he has never seen and just wants to hear him are heartbreaking in the emotion displayed by a better than average actor. However, I'm tempted to give my kudos most to Puta's Uco. He is so damn good at playing the bitch heel son of a crime boss whose power hungry and respect craving wants put him on a path of destruction which I honestly feel he doesn't really want to be on. A good looking guy, Puta manages to balance some sympathy before emphasizing the bitch tactics in his performance to make a truly memorable villain.
For those of you who are wondering how The Raid 2 compares to The Raid: Redemption, I feel it's a bit of moot point to analyse the two side-by-side. Despite both being part of the action genre influenced heavily by martial arts fight scenes, they are two really different beasts, even with having a loose plot arc about bent cops linking the two. It's like sticking Die Hard next to Lethal Weapon - two different ends of the same spectrum - or even comparing Alien and Aliens - two different genres with the same characters and universe. I'm happy to note as two films side-by-side, they compliment each other perfectly and are essential viewing. I do wonder what the future holds for Evans. It depends on how much he's satisfied as a very big fish now in a small pond of Indonesian & Asian cinema, as the freedom he has there to create mind blowing action I doubt he'll get in the West.
The 411: To be frank, with The Raid 2: Berandal, the bar has been emphasised at how great western movie makers are making truly brilliant action films. It's just that they don't have the connections and facilities to make their visions realised and writer & director Gareth Evans highlights the efforts he has had to go to create at the highest level of filmmaking. A faultless follow up to Evans' original, this two and a half hour of honest to god, edge of your seat physical and martial art action is up there in modern cinema as an instant classic. There should be nothing stopping you from going to see this right now.