There’s a set of unwritten rules in films like The Raid 2.
Number one: you must never bring a gun to a fist fight. Knives and clubs are fine, just no guns.
Number two: when fighting, all bad guys must form an orderly queue and wait for their chance to try to punch the good guy in the face.
That’s just how it works.
Video games adhere to the same rules, and while The Raid reveled in its similarity to a computer game – the film’s vertical progression was like a heavily armed reimagining of Donkey Kong – this sequel has an altogether wider field of vision.
It picks up where The Raid left off, with Police officer and one-man pain factory Rama (Iko Uwais) fresh from his battle with a tower block full of baddies. Unfortunately for Rama it turns out that was just a tiny cog in the Indonesian underworld machine and he’s soon convinced to go undercover in an attempt to bring its families down from the top and protect his wife and child from the inevitable revenge attacks that await.
From that point we lurch from one fight scene to the next. There’s a one-versus-the-rest punch-up in a cramped prison toilet cubicle, a tussle in a grotty DIY porn factory and a rumble in an ornate nightclub. It’s breathtakingly physical, with the camera tumbling about and crashing through windows almost as much as the human punchbags themselves.
But The Raid 2 is more than just Crank with subtitles. While the story is flimsy and needlessly confusing in places it introduces plenty of memorable characters that stand out from the almost endlessly regenerating henchmen. While up-and-coming gangster Bejo (Alex Abbad) is just an uncontrolled arm away from becoming Dr Strangelove, it’s the psychotic brother and sister duo of Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) – an assassin who expects his victims to return the ball he’ll use to kill them – and Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) who stick in the memory. These are the end-of-level bosses of the film, another nod to the pillars of gaming.
The Raid 2 is at its best when it’s being a martial arts film, rather than trying to copy the ultraviolence that many associate with far eastern cinema. On occasion it splashes more claret than West Ham United’s in-house painter and decorator, and while it sometimes feels a touch gratuitous, criticising a film like The Raid 2 for its violence is like going to a pub and complaining about all the booze.
It would be easy to let a film like this spiral out of control, drunk on a higher budget for locations, extras and special effects but director Gareth Evans keeps a lid on it. While it’s relatively free of CGI, and it could do with having 15 or 20 minutes kicked out of it, The Raid 2’s finest moments appear towards the end of the film – the fight scene within a car involved in a chase through the streets of Jakarta is worth the admission fee alone.
Where The Raid attempted to dazzle with its fight scenes first and worry about a plot second (if at all), The Raid 2 strikes the balance far more successfully while managing to turn the brutality up a notch in the process. This is a sequel that eclipses its predecessor in every way – and that’s one rule it’s happy to break.
4.5 out of 5
Bigger and badder than its predecessor, The Raid 2 raises the bar for action movies
Thanks to Tom Wiggins for contributing this review to thisisafilmblog.com
Follow him here: @WiggoWiggo. He’s actually pretty funny.