The Raid 2 (2014)
Starring: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Julie Estelle, Alex Abbad, Tio Pakusadewo, Oka Antara, and Cecep A. Rahman
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Synopsis: Set right after the first Raid film, officer Rama is recruited to go undercover to infiltrate Jakarta’s ruthless criminal gangs, the Bangun and Goto.
What work(s): The action. Plain and simple this is a no-holds-barred, spare no expense, balls to the wall action martial arts film. DO NOT think it will be The Godfather of martial arts films because of the acting or set design. Every time there’s an action scene it is awesome. I’m not a huge martial arts movie fan and can’t tell the difference between Jiujitsu, Taekwando or Capoeira. To my ignorance it’s all looks just like karate. However, this Indonesian Silat is impressive nonetheless. The fight scenes are gloriously violent and bloody and it definitely will not disappoint any action or martial arts fan. And not just the choreography of the scenes but the cinematography as well. Great shots of the action with very little close-ups. Most recent action films rely too heavily on shaky-cam and close-ups to enhance the action but sadly, it’s actually confusing and distracting. The Raid films take a nice step back to get more action in the frame and for that I am thankful. I was never scratching my head to what was going on in the scene.
What fail(s): Pretty much everything else fails though in my opinion. Sure the action scenes are exciting (to a fault—I’ll get to that in a moment) but the story and plot of the film are a sad bore. It’s your typical undercover cop in the criminal element story with gangs fighting gangs and gangs in-fighting as well. The characters are one-dimensional and cartoonish (trying to look tough with sunglasses and threatening hookers are just some examples of cliche villainy) and even our hero, Rama, really does nothing but break some bones. As a cop he really doesn’t do anything undercover nor does he provide enough information to his superiors to crack a case or destroy the gangster family from the inside—the boss’ own son is the prime mover to the film’s plot. So Rama is basically going with the flow and just staying alive.
Getting back to the action scenes being exciting to a fault. What I mean is that they are great examples of cinematic fighting and martial arts violence. However, it gets incredibly boring after a while (of this film’s 150 minute run time) when our hero is basically invincible (he gets the occasional cut and bruise) and most of his opponents are attacking him one-by-one and with no weapons whatsoever. He’s fighting gangster goons and guards and they have no knives or guns. Really? There’s some gun fighting in this but very little, especially with Rama. And towards the end it felt very video game-ish when he fights goon after goon until he reaches the mini-bosses. He battles 3 of them, all with “specialized” weapons. I use quotation marks because one of them uses claw hammers as her weapons of choice and the other fella uses an aluminum baseball bat. He even swings at common baseballs to hit his opponents. I laughed out loud at the absurdity of this villain accurately hitting a baseball several long yards at his targets, hitting them so hard they die. Like I said, very cartoony but still entertaining if you can dig this sort of stuff. But again, when our hero is basically unarmed fighting other unarmed assailants time and time again it, to me, gets boring. I much rather see him fight opponents that have weapons and he has to use his ingenuity or practical items to attack and defend himself. It would just be that much more interesting.
Another thing that is bugging me big time about this film is the car chase scene. Now, I don’t think I made this clear but one of my penchants in film is a chase, especially car chases. I’m not even a car guy—I barely know what’s under my own hood but I do enjoy a great car chase in an action movie. The Raid 2 tried to do a car chase scene and I don’t think it came out as good as people are saying. First, it looked like the cars are going no more than 45 MPH so there’s barely any heightened danger there when the cars are basically drifting through the streets. Then there’s the bumping between these cars and it’s all done so standard and filmed straight on and just not that enticing. It had some moments, especially the camera shots going in-between the cars but most of it fell flat for me. Rama is fighting 2 guys in the backseat and it goes on for way too long. Again, how these goons had no weapons is the question of the day. The shooting between the cars is your typical shooting at the windows and not the tires spiel. Also the highway they were on had no turns and I’m having difficulty even remembering if there were other drivers on the road that they interacted with so again, very weak in my opinion.
Overall: Sure, I had a few nitpicks and stated some flaws but this was a solid action movie. I highly recommend it especially to fans of the original The Raid. If I had to compare the two I liked the first on a lot more because of the novelty of the martial arts Silat (to me anyway) as well as the concept of the high-rise apartment building as the setting. It gave way more interest having our hero(es) confined to one location and having to defend themselves. Whereas, The Raid 2 is your standard undercover cop in the underbelly of the criminal world cliche. But overall I was mostly entertained and it was a fun movie for its genre.
Score: 7 Claw Hammer weapons (out of 10)