When The Raid hit UK cinemas back in 2012, it delivered a gut-punch to the raft of stale action films that had been clogging up cinemas for far too long. Set almost entirely within the confines of an Indonesian tower block packed with criminals, it followed a rookie cop, Rama (Iko Uwais) as he fought his way up 30 stories of pure carnage. Those who remember it will likely recall 90 minutes of non-stop action that married martial arts with truly inventive gunplay.
The Raid 2 picks up moments after the end of the first film, with all of Rama’s compatriots lying six feet under. He’s approached by a senior detective who offers him two choices: go undercover to expose police corruption in the Jakarta underworld, or wait for gangsters to come and kill his family. With that in mind, he assumes a new identity and heads into prison. The plan, as he’s been told, is to befriend a preening mob prince:
Naturally, the film’s highlights are the multiple action sequences (most of which are located in the final, spine-snapping 60 minutes). As well as showcasing more of the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat, writer/director Gareth Evans stages a number of thrilling new set-pieces. Some of the highlights include an all-out prison brawl in a muddy courtyard, a jaw-dropping car chase, and a character known only as Hammer Girl (played by Indonesian actress Julie Estelle). As choreographed by Evans and his stars Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, the action scenes will have you laughing in nervous delight. (Note: This assumes you are predisposed towards Tarantino-style screen violence).
As an action director, Evans reminds us an awful lot of a Raider of the Lost Ark-era Steven Spielberg. His witty editing, use of long master shots and ability to tell a story through action has all the hallmarks of Spielberg — only with a lot more blood.
Fans of the original were understandably reluctant to hear The Raid would be a little more story-heavy. Evans has openly taken a page from Infernal Affairs –and by extension, The Departed— with this story of a cop losing himself undercover. Evans is proving himself to be one the most exciting young filmmakers working today. His ability to paint solid, well-defined characters and his love for cinematic gestures will serve him well should he ever chose to work outside the realm of action.
The screenplay of The Raid 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way, but it also doesn’t have to. As a action film, all the script needs to do is not interfere with the action. Evans’ elaborate mob opera plot doesn’t just stay out of the action’s way: it informs and enhances it in a really satisfying way. The best praise we can lavish on
Some critics have hailed The Raid 2 as ‘the greatest action film of all time’ which is not useful to hear before you head into the cinema. Nothing can live up to that sort of hype. But if you banish the hyperbole from your mind and enjoy this film for what it is, you might begin to find yourself agreeing with the buzz.
Here’s what we do know for sure: this is definitely the finest action film we’ve see in years.
The Raid 2 is in cinemas 11 April 2014