Coming back for a sequel, Gareth Evans’ follow up to The Raid, The Raid: Berandal is a much bigger film in every respect. It’s scope (2.35:1) instead of flat (1.85:1), it’s a full fifty minutes longer, and it features some of the craziest and greatest stunt sequences in the history of cinema. But also with that two and a half hour running time comes some bloat, which may have been unavoidable with the scope of the film. Iko Uwais returns as Rama, who this time goes undercover to take the most powerful bosses in the business, but to do so he most put a lot of his life on the line. My The Raid 2 Blu-ray review follows after the jump.
The film starts with Rama being taken in by the good cops as many of the supporting character who survived the first film are eliminated from the story. If Rama really wants to make a different, he needs to go under cover, and get close to Uco (Arifin Putra) who is the son of a very powerful gangster, but it means putting his wife in hiding and not seeing her for a very long time. Rama agrees, partly because his brother was killed by the gangster Bejo (Alex Abbad). To get his bonafides, Rama assaults a politician’s kid, which gets him an unexpected two years in prison.
There he does get close to Uco, but only after having to fight his way out of a bathroom and after protecting Uco from getting shanked in a muddy field which turns insane when the guards enter into the mix. Eventually Rama gets out and gets a job with Uco’s dad Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). Once out, it’s revealed that Uco has been teaming with Bejo to take over the all the crime in Indonesia, and to start things off, puts old veteran Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian) in the crosshairs. This isn’t good enough to start an all-out war, but it’s coming, and Rama is in the middle between Bangun and Uco.
Evans may have bit off more than he could chew with this film in that it tries to go macro in terms of crime, and where working within the set of a building (and a 100 minute run time) meant that every detail in the first film builds in that film, whereas here you don’t have the same propulsive drive of climbing a building and knowing where you are in the story by what floor you’re on. It’s unfortunate a movie this long doesn’t have that same sense of build, but the film more than makes up for it by providing about ten of the best action set pieces that have been put to screen. But that also makes it the sort of film where you might fast forward to the next big set piece.
The film also offers some great new supporting players, and Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) makes for a memorable henchperson. Evans does an immaculate job creating those set pieces, and there’s a great car chase where the camera goes from inside one car to another without missing a beat (it’s shown how Evans pulled it off in the supplements), but the film also reveals his limitations as a writer as he doesn’t key in as directly to Rama’s relationship with his wife. There is a tension to the material because of his prolonged absence and his attempts to contact her that is almost impossible to satisfy. It seems Evans may have been stuck in this situation because of the original, which had Rama’s character’s wife about to have a baby. You don’t necessarily want his wife and child trotted out in the conclusion simply to raise the stakes, but his commitment to the mission (and the time away) is such that it nags at the viewer. It feels like the film should be building to that reunion, but for the most part his family is an afterthought.
This may not be as clean or as functional as John Woo at his best, but between the first film and this film, Evans is destined to be remembered as one of the best action directors in cinema history, so that’s no faint praise. And anyone who’s every enjoyed the fluidity and skill that goes into the best martial arts films will find much to enjoy in the film.
Sony presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio in both English and the original Indonesian/Bahasa language (with optional English and English SDH subtitles). A digital copy is also included. The film comes with a commentary track from director Gareth Evans, who seems to like commentary tracks and does a good job talking about the making of the film on it. There’s a “Gang War” deleted scene (5 min.), which is epic in its gun violence but was probably wisely cut, which is followed by “The Next Chapter: Shooting a Sequel” (11 min.) which shows how they did one of the most impressive shots in the film. There’s an “on location” piece called “Ready for a Fight” (13 min.), and a Q&A with Iko Uwais, Evans and composer Joe Trapanese (44 min.), then there’s “Violent Ballet: Behind the Choreography” (19 min.), which shows how they trained to shoot the action set pieces with the actors. The film’s theatrical trailer is also included.