Now that I’ve had a day to process it, here’s my take on The Raid 2: Berandal. (Caution: there will be minor spoilers here.)
Let’s get the negatives out of the way — the only thing that (some ADHD-riddled folks) will complain about is the length and the subtitles. Also, a few cinephiles may not be happy about the recycled story concept — it’s a high-octane martial arts re-imagining of the outstanding Hong Kong police thriller Infernal Affairs that was later re-made into the Academy Award-winning Hollywood film The Departed. The plot and characters can get a little labyrinthine with the double-and-triple-crosses but that isn’t a complaint just a heads-up that this action film has a strong component of character development and interaction.
With that said, The Raid 2 picks up right after the end of the first movie and puts main character Rama (Iko Uwais) back into the mix as an undercover agent sent to bring down two Indonesian crime syndicates. I have to say, the acting in this movie is strong from top to bottom. You get to know each character and why they do what they do — and some of them are slimeballs but others are crimelords with a sense of honor and duty.
For the last 12 hours, friends have asked me “How could they top the first movie?”
Well, several ways:
- Stronger, more involving story and characters.
- Elaborately staged fight sequences that raise the brutality quotient by a factor of 3,000 from the first film.
- Remarkable cinematography using impossible angles and practical effects mixed with astonishing stunt work.
- A mind-blowing tracking shot through a mud-soaked prison riot.
- The claw hammer and baseball bat assassins.
- The best car chase/brawl I’ve ever seen.
- A three-part final battle that will have you breathless and bouncing out of your seat.
Before anyone dismisses my review as hyperbole, I used to work for a store that imported Japanese animation, Hong Kong cinema and other Asian pop culture back in the late 1990s. I knew about John Woo, the Shaw Bros., Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li, Gordon Lui, Donnie Yen, and Chow Yun Fat years before they became household names of the geek community.
My action pedigree is solid, and I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Raid 2 is the best martial arts film I’ve ever seen. Director Gareth Evans should be immediately given the keys to the Punisher franchise because this is the level of brutality seen in the old Punisher: War Zone comics, and you simply will not believe your eyes during the magnificent battle sequences.
Go see it. Immediately if you live in LA or New York. If you don’t, it will have a national release on April 11.
Brandon Easton is the writer and creator of the award-winning graphic novel Shadowlaw, and screenwriter for the animated series ThunderCats and Transformers: Rescue Bots. Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Brandon currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.