Having Loved The Raid, 500 Days Of Film Warily Watches Its Sequel - The Raid 2.
In the hours following the events of The Raid, Rama (Iko Uwais) is forced to reinvent himself as an undercover cop in order to protect his wife and child.
Working for an anti-corruption task-force led by Bunawar (Cok Simbara) - the only man he feels that he can trust - Rama has to become an enforcer for a local mob boss, Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo).
In order to find a way in, Rama has to form a bond with Bangun’s son, Uco. His mission then is to hunt for information linking the mob boss with police force corruption.
However, Rama is also consumed by a need for revenge and justice - a desire that threatens to destroy both his mission and his life.
Is It Any Good?
I was wary of watching The Raid 2. Despite positive reviews, I felt anxious that this film wouldn't be able to match its original - The Raid. And I love The Raid - a lot. (click here for my review of The Raid)
While, overall, I still prefer the original, The Raid 2 is a superb film. It is full of tension, drama and, of course, it is bursting at the seams with stunning fight sequences.
Director, Gareth Evans, starts The Raid 2 moments after the end of The Raid - a move of pure genius. Within minutes, I was gripped by the new story, engaged by poor Rama’s struggle and tense like you wouldn’t believe.
Evans was under a huge amount of pressure to match the phenomenal success of The Raid. Knowing that the shock and surprise of the original would be impossible to recreate, Evans set out to make a true (and satisfying) sequel.
Once again, Iko Uwais is superb as Rama. He is a phenomenal fighter and choreographer. However, what elevates his performance (and the entire film) is the fact that both Evans and Uwais take the time to make him a fully rounded character.
As pretty much the only decent human being on screen, you can’t help but like (and root for) Rama.
It is agonising, then, to watch Rama become increasingly desperate. He is in an impossible situation and unable to do the thing he wants the most - to return to his family.
However, as film progresses, Rama becomes physically stronger and more able to deal with the dangerous situations that he faces. And he certainly needs all of the skills at his disposal.
Gareth Evans has ruined many action films for me. But in the very best way. Before I watched The Raid, I was a passive consumer of fight sequences. Now I know what can be achieved and I can spot the places where a director has tried to cheat or cut corners.
Evans values his audience and gives them time to appreciate each shot, before his camera pans away. He works extremely closely with his choreographers to allow us to see the detail in every scene. There is no padding here, no quick fire editing - no where to hide.
Each individual shot in Evans' films is part of a jigsaw piece. In the case of The Raid 2, he filmed 197 two second shots over ten days. He didn’t combine takes and he didn’t piece his action together from different versions of the same scene.
In this way, each fight sequence feels incredibly organic and authentic. As with The Raid, I was always aware of the space in which Rama was fighting. While this sense of space is not quite as intense in The Raid 2, it undoubtedly helped build the film’s tension.
However, action in The Raid 2 is never a means to an end. These scenes always move the narrative forwards and are full of drama and emotion.
Each fight in The Raid 2 starts with a moment of calm. The fighters look at each other, sizing each other up. Then they start to move and I find myself, fists clenched, edging towards the very edge of my seat.
The fights themselves are stunning, almost balletic. The action - particularly in the muddy prison yard and then, later, in the pristine kitchen - is almost too much for my brain to process. As the scenes progress, fighters become (understandably) exhausted and this raises the tension still further. Where will this desperation and exhaustion lead?
Well, without fear of spoilers, I can tell you where it leads - to bone crunching violence. As the BBFC states: “there are a number of protracted fight scenes, featuring the use of knives, guns and other weapons. One character uses claw hammers against her enemies. There are frequent gory images, during and in the aftermath of these fights.”
This level of violence is, of course, not for everyone. On occasion, I found The Raid 2 pretty tough to watch. However, for me, the violence is so extreme that it doesn’t feel part of the real world and this allowed me to sit back and enjoy the story.
For his part, Evans doesn’t believe in any correlation between screen violence and actual violence. He has explained that the extreme violence creates a shared feeling of shock among the audience. Then, with the realisation that these scenes are not actually real, there comes a wave of relief, often triggering laughter.
I have to say that this was very similar to my experience of both The Raid and The Raid 2. I was endlessly impressed by and thoroughly enjoyed this film. If you love action and martial arts movies, you'll love The Raid 2.
The martial arts discipline seen in both The Raid and The Raid 2 is called pencak silat. When Evans first saw silat he was impressed by its adaptability and fluidity - describing it as inherently cinematic.
Iko Uwais was introduced to pencak silat through his uncle, the master of the Tiga Berantai Silat School (a Jakarta/Betawi style silat). Iko took an immediate interest, starting pencak silat when he was five years old and continuing to practice until he became a professional athlete.
There is an incredible amount of trust between all of the fighters in The Raid 2. However, sometimes a punch or kick will accidentally connect. The respect between the fighters means that they will instinctively apologise if they actually hit someone. Evans had to train them to wait for him to say cut before saying sorry - otherwise, as Evans explains, they will have been punched for nothing.
Have you seen The Raid 2?
If so, what did you think of this movie? Did you prefer it to the original or is The Raid still your favourite of the two films?
Whatever the case, do let me know by leaving a comment in the box below!