14 August 2014

"The Raid 2" Review

Serving as a direct sequel to "The Raid: Redemption," "The Raid 2" picks up exactly where the first film ended. Once again written and directed by Gareth Evans, "The Raid 2" follows Rama (Iko Uwais) on a quest for vengeance  as he plays the role of an undercover agent, who infiltrates a crime syndicate.

Thanks to the success of the first film, Gareth Evans' "The Raid 2" is more ambitious and it shows. While character motives and plot details took a back seat in "The Raid," "The Raid 2" seeks to fix this by not only being nearly an hour longer than its predecessor, but by introducing a multitude of characters and sub-plots.

The more detailed script this time around is both an asset and liability to the film. Characters like Mad Dog from the first film were memorable, because they worked as more than just simple fodder for Rama to defeat but instead presented a challenge and had their share of screen-time. Gareth Evans ups this number of memorable villains in the form of characters that seemed like they were pulled from Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill."

Julia Estelle plays "Hammer Girl," an assassin who wields dual hammers. Very Tri Yulisman plays "Baseball Bat Man," the aforementioned "Hammer Girl's" brother. Yulisman's character brings a sense of black comedy by way of his fighting style. As his name suggests, Yulisman wields a baseball bat which he uses to assault enemies by batting baseballs, and in one scene misses his opponent before politely asking for the ball back in a way that a child might. Character motives are there, but the importance is once again placed on watching stylized fights, and this is an instance where it pays off.

The same can't be said for another character Evans introduces which is"Mad Prakoso." Yayan Ruhian returns from his role as "Mad Dog" in order to play a "different" character, but not only are the names similar but so are the appearances. It's odd to believe that such a minor character is given great importance by not only having a fleshed out dialogue scene where the audience is meant to sympathize with his character but also for being largely responsible for the plot of the second half of the film. While Ruhian's small physique endows fear once again, Mad Prakoso's character and scenes seem almost like a forethought in the film that attempt to do too much with too little. Unfortunately, even Prakoso's fight scenes seem tame and lackluster when compared to the rest of the film's action sequences.

The most fleshed out character in "The Raid 2" however has to be Arifin Putra as Uco. A hedonistic playboy whose ambition is to one day take over his father's crime syndicate. Uco serves as the driving force for much of the film's plot and earns plenty of screen-time, that not only showcases his character motives but also serves to show the audience the underbelly of the Jakarta crime scene. While the motive of Uco and overall plot of "The Raid 2" aren't anything you may not have already seen in other crime films, the script works, and despite the amount of dialogue or more expositional scenes, "The Raid 2" still manages to be as intense if not more intense than its predecessor.

The fight scenes in "The Raid 2" constantly up the ante as the film progresses, and to see the manner in which Evans and his crew make the previous fight seem almost miniscule is a delight in itself. The final fight scene of "The Raid: Redemption" recalled an intense two on one battle, and without giving too much away, I'm glad to say the final fight scene in "The Raid 2" is even more impressive as it is visceral. While the narrow hallways of "The Raid: Redemption" allowed for tight scenes where Uwais was allowed to demonstrate his martial arts with mastery, "The Raid 2" places a bigger emphasis on style. The hard work and dedication show in one car chase scene where Rama fights several people in a high-speed moving vehicle. The scene deserves to not only be praised for its execution of its stunts but also in the way it was filmed, with multiple cameramen using the same camera to shoot from different angles.

Fight scenes aren't the only thing with more style.  Alex Abbad plays the role of Bejo, a scheming, self-made gangster. Coming from the slums of Jakarta, Bejo is a person who enjoys things such as upper-class dining and a few scenes are filmed in his own private restaurant. In these scenes the camera movement is almost non-existent, with Evans placing focus on capturing the entire restaurant for its high class appeal. The table is laid out evenly and character mannerisms seem almost robotic but not rigid. It's reminiscent of Nicolas Refn's own style in "Only God Forgives," and while the idea may seem out of place at first, it works out.