Sunday, April 13, 2014
The Raid 2 Radiates Excitement
The Raid 2 is one of those rare films, a sequel that is masterful at exploring the themes of the first while exceeding every expectation along the way. Rama is back, and he has to go deep undercover and get involved with a dangerous mob, gaining trust with the leadership to gain vital information about crooked cops. The Raid: Redemption was confined and claustrophobic--all of the action took place in one building, and only in the beginning and at the end did the film leave the confines of four walls and a ceiling. But the sequel takes the story in some fresh directions (even a masterful car chase battle) with numerous memorable locales. The film gets room to breathe, though much of it will leave viewers breathless.
Some two hours have passed since the end of the first film, and Rama becomes convinced to get thrown in prison to buddy up with a son, Uco (a charming Arifin Putra), of a powerful crime lord. When Rama proves his worthiness during a muddy prison riot, Uco gives him a job working for the family once Rama gets released. The story is pretty intricate--you will read a lot, unlike the sparse dialogue in the first Raid--and all characters and crime factions have different motivations. The main tension deals with three groups: Uco's local family, a rival Japanese gang, and Bejo (Alex Abbad) and his cronies, a rising group of gangsters that threatens the power struggle between the two violent families. The story is stellar and serves the action well, but let's be honest: that's not what we're here for.
And the credit really goes to director (and writer) Gareth Evans, a Welshman who become fascinated with film making and the Indonesian martial art called pencak silat which is prominent in his films. With The Raid 2, Evans has propelled himself to the forefront of action directors working today. His ability to make you feel like you're in the middle of the fight--with the innovative camera angles, jarring direction changes, and brutal efficiency--rather than just watching a fight is incredible. No American film will match the excitement of the last hour of The Raid 2 this year. It's essential viewing for any un-squeamish movie fan: a choreographed master-class in excess and excitement. (A)