Sundance 2014: THE RAID 2 Review

by     Posted 330 days ago

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When Gareth EvansThe Raid premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, audiences were floored.  It was as if someone had smacked us in the face about 800 times, and showed us that the action being churned out by Hollywood wasn’t half as effective as it could be.  No amount of CGI could ever pack the punch of a perfectly choreographed, perfectly shot, and perfectly edited fight scene.  The original’s barebones plot allowed the movie to mainline the action and get the adrenaline pumping.  It also created high expectations for The Raid 2.  Whereas the first movie was mean and lean, the sequel is epic and explosive with a twisting crime drama serving as the backdrop for some of the best action scenes you’ll ever see.  The violence is brutal; the set pieces are brilliant; and the movie hits so hard that your grandchildren will have bruises.

Picking up where the first film left off, Rama (Iko Uwais) has brought in corrupt cop Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), and is now being offered the chance to go after the big fish that are ruining the city.  He’s reluctant to join the cause, but when the increasingly powerful gangster Bejo (Alex Abbad) kills Rama’s brother, the super cop agrees to go undercover and bring down crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo).  Rama goes into prison, befriends Bangun’s son Uco (Arifin Putra), and once they’re released, he gets into the organization.  However, Uco’s reckless ambition sets up a series of double-crosses that threaten to engulf the underworld in an all-out war.  Also, there’s a lot of fighting and even a car chase.

From its opening shot, Evans signals The Raid 2 will be bigger.  The first movie was in the close quarters of a rundown tower.  The sequel opens with a wide shot of a green field with storm clouds hanging overhead, and in the foreground we see an open grave waiting for an unknown victim.  It’s a nice, subtle way of informing the audience that death will still be prevalent, but this time we’ll be working from a much larger canvas.  That canvas not only applies to the action, but to the narrative.

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Because action is the driving force of the film and the reason people are even showing up in the first place, Evans decides to make the story as big as the set pieces.  It’s almost difficult to keep up with the various players, motives, and double-crosses as Uco and Bejo maneuver to wrest control of the city away from Bangun and fellow crime boss Mr. Goto (Ken’ichi Endô).  Eventually, the larger story begins to become convoluted, and poor Rama starts getting lost in the shuffle.  The action is so big that the fights need fights, and we’re watching people we don’t know brutally murder other people we don’t know.  The plot doesn’t get foreshadowing, but the fights do.  Evans has no pretentions about The Raid 2, but the plot always feels like dressing on the blood-splattered window.

Like the first movie, the story is serviceable enough to get to the action scenes, and taken solely on the basis of the individual set pieces, The Raid 2 is one of the greatest action movies ever made.  It’s a movie where afterwards you’ll argue with your friends about which set piece was the best.  Maybe it was the prison riot in the mud, or maybe it was the car chase/fight scene hybrid, or maybe it was the slaughter on a subway car featuring a character whose name is (I kid you not), “Hammer Girl” (guess what she uses).

They’re all masterful and it all comes down to preference.  The fight in the mud is impressive for the technical skill involved since mud isn’t going to agree with complex fight choreography, and I was wondering how many takes it took for Evans to get some of the longer shots.  The car chase is unlike anything we’ve ever seen as Evans puts fights inside of vehicles and then uses the vehicles and the road as weapons.  The Hammer Girl sequence is noteworthy for its bloody violence, and that’s saying something in a film that should easily get an NC-17 from the MPAA (assuming they choose to actually exercise common sense).  It is gory beyond all reason, and these are only three of the film’s numerous fight scenes.

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Evans is clearly one of the best action directors working today, but to tack on “action” is slightly dismissive of his immense talent.  He treats his action movie like a composer treats music, and as any musician will tell you, the silence between the notes is just as important as the notes themselves.  Even when the film is going through the motions of forwarding the plot, the visuals are still lush and vibrant, and the use of sound is phenomenal.  Action is Evans’ element, and his technical bravado is abundantly clear in the set pieces, but viewers should also admire what he does outside of the fights.

He lets us know every time we’re about to head into a set piece.  We can feel the action start to rise, and every time I had that feeling, a big, goofy grin spread across my face.  On my way back to the hotel after the screening, I did a bit of soul searching about why I found such gratuitous violence so exhilarating, but then I decided not to wrack my brain over why I should feel guilty about this enjoyable experience.  If you ever sit next to me during this movie, be prepared for me to actually move my body with some of the hits, and shout “Oh!” and “Oof!” on a regular basis.  Evans’ mixture of editing, choreography, cinematography, and sound is too powerful to deny.  The fact that he has a cast of immensely talented performers led by the exceptional Uwais doesn’t hurt either.  The hurt comes from what the cast does on screen.

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The Raid 2 subscribes to the sequel school of “Bigger Is Better”, and since the action in the first movie could already be described as “insane”, “more insane” isn’t a great description.  Evans has far surpassed the original in terms of action, and his attempt to match the scope of the sequel’s story with the size of the set pieces is admirable, although it ultimately ends up becoming a distraction.  However, that’s a minor complaint because while I can point out the story’s shortcomings, I can’t deny the film’s pure, visceral impact.  It’s been over two hours since I saw The Raid 2, and my blood is still pumping and my nerves are still vibrating.

Rating: A-

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  • The_Dude

    Thanks for spoiler alert, doucheberg. Some of us have to actually wait til march to see it.

    • scheebles

      It’s a review. Don’t click on it if you don’t want to know anything.

      • Aquartertoseven

        That’s ridiculous, reviews are supposed to entice people not spoil people, unless it specifically says ‘spoiler alert’ or something before hand.

      • JJ_Huber

        Reviews are suppose to be critique’s, not consumer reports.

      • scheebles

        Go look up a review of any movie. They ALL have some element of plot synopsis. I just read 3 for Jack Ryan and they each had a synopsis and pretty detailed breakdowns of scenes they loved or hated. Reviews are not supposed to “entice” a reader. They are editorials. They are opinions. I can link you to 100+ reviews that give away just as many details as Matt did in this review.

        And if you didn’t want to know anything beyond his initial reaction, then you shouldn’t have clicked on the jump. The first paragraph clearly has a brief rundown of his opinion with no other specific details. Seriously. This is common sense.

      • scheebles

        Go look up a review of any movie. They ALL have some element of plot synopsis. I just read 3 for Jack Ryan and they each had a synopsis and pretty detailed breakdowns of scenes they loved or hated. Reviews are not supposed to “entice” a reader. They are editorials. They are opinions. I can link you to 100+ reviews that give away just as many details as Matt did in this review.

        And if you didn’t want to know anything beyond his initial reaction, then you shouldn’t have clicked on the jump. The first paragraph clearly has a brief rundown of his opinion with no other specific details. Seriously. This is common sense.

    • paul h

      It’s MG, what’d ya’ll expect?

  • Aditya Nugraha

    Thanks for spoiling the opening asshole.
    Though Great review this time matt

  • mattinacan

    the first one didn’t do much for me, it was kind of brutal, lots of CGI wounds, no story or characters. i much preferred Dredd.

    • JJ_Huber

      Funny, that’s similar to what I thought of Dredd.

      • mattinacan

        funny, because you’re wrong?

      • Lobbo

        Funny because your mother is a two pence prostitute.

      • Mike

        No. Neither are right since both movies have completely different merits aside from the main of structure, which Dredd clearly has the edge in.

      • doctor_robot

        and… what about your mother?

      • Mike

        No. Neither are right since both movies have completely different merits aside from the main of structure, which Dredd clearly has the edge in.

    • Aquartertoseven

      Same here, the action was good but I found the overall film a bit sparse. Whereas Dredd was just great all around.

      • Mr. Stix

        It was great for a semi-DTV movie with ridiculous CGI blood.

    • Mr. Stix

      And it’s Fanta Blood.

  • Redemption

    Can’t wait for this. Starting to feel like an idiot for ever doubting it could live up to the first one. Gareth Evans is on another level.

  • http://www.collider.com/ DNAsplitter

    Kinda pissed about not being warned about the spoiler in the opening but then again it’s the catalyst for the entire film so it’s really a necessity to say in order to write the review. Still can’t wait for this film to come out in March.

    • The Voice of Reason

      You goddamn pansies need to grow a set. THE SPOILER IS IN THE F-CKING TRAILER! A derp a derp a tiddly derp derp. So people have become so stupid they consider a review mentioning THE PREMISE of a movie to be a spoiler? You people make me sick.

      • http://www.collider.com/ DNAsplitter

        Awe thanks cupcake for the input. Why don’t you actually stick to one name when trying to call someone out instead of acting like the pansy you are (God of Collider, Chris Nolan Super Fraud, Lulz, Troll Therapist) instead of making up a guest name. That way we both know who we are addressing and can avoid any confusion down the road ;) Also, if you actually read what I posted you would see that I agree that it needed to be said in the review.

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  • The Flobbit

    Excellent review, and hopefully awesome film. The batshit, brutal, guns-and-fists mayhem in The Raid and John Woo’s action masterpieces will always equal, if not rival the explosions and machine guns of Die Hard and Predator.

  • Btbcc12859

    When I saw the words “Review” I suspected spoilers so I just jumped to the comment section to confirm….!

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  • Sweet Pea

    “and the movie hits so hard that your grandchildren will have bruises” makes no sense whatsoever.. And then you ruined the movie with no warning. More horrendous journalism from Matt Goldberg.

  • Broncosfan

    dc should ger this guy for the justice league movie or solo batman before marvel snatches himup.

  • scheebles

    Has nobody ever read a review??? Reviews contain DETAILS FROM THE FILM that the reviewer found admirable or lackluster. They also contain a plot synopsis to explain what parts of the story they didn’t care for. This is literally taught to you in Journalism 101. I disagree with Matt a lot, but you guys are ridiculous. I wrote reviews for 6 years and this is the standard format for a review. Plot synopsis, details that you love/loathe, don’t give away the twists/ending, relate a final rating.

    • JJ_Huber

      We live in a spoiler-phobic world where just knowing a synopsis will “ruin” the experience forever. They don’t care about storytelling but an element of surprise.

  • JJ_Huber

    I hate spoilerphobes. There’s nothing in this review that will ruin my experience….but then again I don’t buy into the notion of “spoilers” really. Knowing something can add dread or suspense waiting for an event to occur (think Flash Forward scenes from Breaking Bad). Don’t want to know anything, don’t read a review, just look at the Rotten Tomatoes score.

    • The Flobbit

      I’ve had films spoiled for me by reading cast lists on Wikipedia. I’ve had things spoiled for me by Amazon reviews, parodies, illegal download comments, posters, tracklists, Rotten Tomato synopses, and forums.

      Bottom line. No matter where you turn, there are idiots waiting to spoil the story. But good call. Sometimes knowing a crucial detail about the ending that you shouldn’t know increases excitement.

  • MCP

    A simple way to avoid spoiler’s on Matt’s reviews:

    Read 1st paragraph of article, skip to last paragraph of article and get your rating. Nothing spoiled on my side..

    Nice review Matt, can’t wait to watch this!!

  • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

    We know now what will look like Dredd 2.

    • Mr. Stix

      If there is a Dredd 2.

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