Directed by: Gareth Evans
Premise: A sequel to the 2012 film. Set immediately following the events of the first picture, surviving SWAT officer Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover in an organized crime syndicate.
What Works: The Raid: Redemption was one of the best action films of many years. That picture was a marvelously crafted piece of work in which a SWAT team is ambushed and trapped inside of a high rise apartment complex and must fight their way out. Although thin on story, the 2012 picture had distinct characters, terrific cinematography and editing, an effective soundtrack, and some of the best fights and shootouts that had been seen in the action genre in some time. The set pieces of The Raid 2 are on par with its predecessor and in some cases exceed those of the original. Where the first picture was intimately scaled, the sequel has a broad scope and the filmmakers take advantage of the space afforded to them here, featuring extended fights and car chases that cover much more ground and boast even more elaborate stunt work. One of the strengths of both Raid films has been their visceral and practical qualities. Neither of the films had obvious use of computer generated imagery, contrasting them with the digital filmmaking that has characterized the superhero movies that dominate Hollywood’s action films as of late. As elaborate as some of the fight choreography may be, the Raid films maintain a level of credulity that keeps them engaging. The filmmakers do not defy gravity the way some martial arts pictures do and in the course of the fights everyone gets hurt, coming out of each battle with new scars. In both films, but especially in the sequel, the filmmakers indulge the sleaziness of the underworld and that gives the films an added feel of authenticity. In The Raid 2 those sleazy environments contrast with the sterile domestic spaces that the crimes lords inhabit and these scenes give the sequel a chance for better character work than the first film. The scenes between the patriarch of the crime family (Tio Pakusodewo) and his son (Arifin Putra) are some of the best dramatic moments of the picture.
What Doesn’t: The Raid 2 is an ambitious movie but it falls short of its intentions. The first Raid was in many ways akin to the original Die Hard and that comparison was complimentary. The sequel is reminiscent of The Departed (which was a remake of Infernal Affairs) but in this case the comparison is not as flattering. As a story of an undercover cop, organized crime, and police corruption, The Raid 2 creates certain exceptions in regard to its story that it does not fulfill. The premise of the movie is that Rama must go undercover in order to protect himself and his family from reprisals by rooting out crooked cops but the movie never really accomplishes that and the whole impetus for the film gets lost along the way. Part of what worked so well for the original Raid was its immediacy. The surviving SWAT team members were trapped in a tight physical space and had to fight in order to survive. The characters of the sequel do not have that kind of obvious motivation and the momentum of the story gradually deteriorates; when the picture gets to its finale it is unclear what the characters are fighting for. The Raid 2 also suffers from being too long. The film runs two and a half hours and it feels that length. When the action comes it is fast and furious but the film lags in the downtime between set pieces. The story of The Raid 2 is complicated and the filmmakers don’t handle the complexity very well. Rama never really finds any crooked cops to rat out and the other major plotline of the movie involves an up and coming gangster seducing the son of a powerful rival and manipulating him into inciting a gang war. This storyline does not give Rama much to do and the plot is convoluted.
Bottom Line: When The Raid 2 is in action mode it really works and this film has some extraordinary set pieces. But the movie is also unnecessarily baggy and the plotting is messy. The sequel isn’t the instant classic that the original Raid was but it is sufficiently entertaining despite its flaws.
Episode: #488 (April 27, 2014)