The first Raid movie was easily one of the best films released in 2011 and Welsh director Gareth Evans has returned with a larger budget (by no means huge) and higher expectation to deal with. The first film has a relatively basic premise with all the focus being on the incredible action sequences. However, the return of the series has allowed Evans to couple the stunning action with a vastly more developed plot.
Taking place over a number of years, rather than a single day, The Raid 2 picks up hours after the events of the first film, following the unfortunate life of Rama (Iko Uwais) as he is sent undercover in an Indonesian prison in an attempt to befriend Uco (who is played excellently by (Arifin Putra) son of a Jakarta mob boss. Soon after his release he is asked to work for Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo) and becomes entangled in a world of violence in the Indonesian underworld. Although it is slightly difficult to keep up with the multiple plot lines in some of the first 90 minutes, the added drama is generally very strong and it adds meaning to the action, creating a more complex film.
I did not think it was possible but the action has been cranked up to another level. It is more intense, brutal and superbly shot than anything in the first film. A mass prison brawl is a highlight of the first half but the final 45 minutes of the film will leave you breathless. With one expertly choreographed scene after another, Evans embeds car chases and characters called Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) to stunning hand-to-hand combat to reintroduce the relentless spirit of the first film. It is also incredible how Evans and his team are able to shoot scenes in expansive or tight areas with such precision so that the audience never loses sight of the main characters. If you found the first film difficult to watch then you will find it even harder to sit through the full 150 minutes of this one.
Unlike the first film, the action is not the only strength of The Raid 2. The dramatic scenes, especially between Iko Uwais, and Arifin Putra, are very well performed, well written and key to taking the series to the next level. There now feels like there is a reason for the brutality, rather than fighting just to showcase what is possible. Characters from the first film reappear and new ones including Bejo (Alex Abbad), a well-dressed psychopath with an unexplained limp, are introduced. All of the new characters are expertly cast and well performed with the only issue being that it is sometimes difficult to keep up due to how many there are.
In short, The Raid 2 takes the brutally relentless action of the first film to another level whilst introducing some much needed drama in order to give more background for the fighting. Its thrilling from start to finish.
The Raid 2 (2014), directed by Gareth Evans, is distributed in the UK by Entertainment One, Certificate 18.