In 2011 Welsh director Gareth Evans made his second feature THE RAID: REDEMPTION. It was an Indonesian action film that was a hit at home and well-received internationally. It was an exciting and violent movie that raised the bar for martial arts films much as Thailand’s ONG BAK had in 2003. Evans introduced world audiences to the Indonesian martial arts that comprise pencak silat.
Now the second movie of the proposed RAID trilogy has arrived. Titled THE RAID 2 or THE RAID: BERANDAL (which means thug), the story picks up directly after the the first movie. Iko Uwais plays Officer Rama, one of the few survivors of the SWAT raid on a Jakarta apartment block belonging to a crime boss. This failed action revealed the extent of police corruption and now Rama is going undercover to investigate further.
The investigation takes him into the heart of the Bangun crime family. Rama goes to prison and over time, works his way into Bangun’s organisation by making himself indispensable to Uco, Bangun’s son. Eventually Uco and Rama leave prison and become involved in the day-to-day dirty work of running a criminal empire. Bangun has an arrangement with the Japanese Goto family; together they have divided Jakarta between them.
A young non-aligned gangster called Bejo threatens the balance of power between the Bangun and Goto families. As Rama searches for evidence of police involvement with Bangun, the potential increases for an all-out mob war.
THE RAID 2 is an attempt to open out the world presented to us in the first movie. That film gave us a filthy, rat-infested apartment block filled with small-time criminals. They represented the scum of the city. Now, we are shown the big fish behind the organised crime. Rather than a floor-by-floor ascent to kill the big boss, the time span and scope of this new story is much larger. THE RAID 2 is obviously influenced by the Hong Kong crime flicks of the ‘80s and ‘90s. All the tropes about cops being undercover and the loyalty and brotherhood of the police versus the mob can be found here. What sets this film apart from the average Asian martial arts crime story are Evans’ skills as a director. Even though we know the many of the story beats are coming, it’s the execution of the sequence that remains enthralling. Like watching a John Woo picture twenty years ago, we wait to see how Evans is going to pull off the hand-to-hand combat, the skirmish with machetes or the ambush on the opposing mobsters. His choices rarely disappoint.
Like the first RAID, this is not a movie about finely-tuned dramatic performances. Star Iko Uwais is brilliant at kicking butt on the cinema screen and he brings even more of this for the sequel. This sequel has a larger budget and there is simply more of everything including a Bournesque car chase sequence through the city.
The film clocks in at a hefty 150 minutes and if you’re a fan of the first movie you are likely to enjoy every moment. If you’re a fan of brilliantly choreographed action sequences and bloody, bone crunching fight scenes, then get along to see this one. Gareth Evans has made a bigger film that sets him up to do Hollywood action blockbusters should he want to. Rating: 8/10.