A few days ago a friend on Twitter had remarked that the more a film is praised on social media, the more the chances are of the film turning out to be underwhelming. I couldn’t agree more with this statement.
A year or two ago when The Raid Redemption had released, most people on social media had gone berserk hailing it as perhaps one of the best things to have happened to mankind and cinema ever since its evolution. :) However when I saw the film it turned out to be a largely underwhelming affair. I didn’t find the film to be the greatest action film to be ever made (the term people had used to describe the film on social media networks). Barring some action scenes ,the film was a mediocre affair with some bad dubbing which made it even worse.
The initial reviews of Raid 2 after it had premiered at Sundance Film Festival had people going gaga over the film, making me wary all over again. This made me apprehensive and approach the film with zero expectations. Now having seen the film I must say it has turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise.
The Raid 2 once again focuses on Rama ( Iko Uwais) who goes undercover in a Jakarta prison with an aim to eliminate the Jakarta underworld. For this he has to befriend Uco ( Arifin Putra) – the son of a high profile Japanese crime lord Goto (Ken ichi Endo) operating in Jakarta. Gota and Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo)- a local Jakarta don are at loggerheads with each other. An Arab crime lord Bejo (Alex Abbad) is always instigating them against each other. Rama also has to avenge the death of his brother who was killed by Bejo. Add to this a bunch of crazy assassins, henchmen, some more undercover cops and what you get is a brutal but largely satisfying action film.
The premise of the film is merely an excuse to showcase violent action and fight scenes one after the other. Heads are smashed, stomachs are ripped apart and the body count keeps piling up. The action scenes are very well executed and are definitely the mainstay of the film. Every action scene outdoes the previous one.
Director Gareth Evans and the stunt choreographers (which also includes the lead actor Iko Uwais) have staged and executed the action scenes with an amazing precision. There is a ruthless agility to it. The build-up and the silence which precedes most of the scenes are well worked upon. And it only adds to the anticipation to watch the brutal and bloody fights which follow thereafter. The cinematography captures the brutality and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the film and the action set pieces quite well. The background score is also quite apt keeping in mind the theme of the film.
The fight scene in the prison, a chaotic car chase amidst a busy highway of Jakarta and the mayhem ensued by a deaf and mute girl in a metro train are some of the best action scenes in the film. Two new characters – the deaf and mute girl with a penchant for killing people with a hammer and a guy with a penchant for killing people with a baseball bat are interesting additions to the film. And they provide the film with some of the best action scenes.
Evans deals with some sub-plots which provide the film with some intensity. Such as the hatred which Uco has towards his father for not letting him take over the reins of their business, Rama discovering the presence of another cop working undercover in the same group and so on. However he doesn’t give more time to focus more on these sub-plots, perhaps since his focus remains more on staging some great action scenes. Had he worked more on this, I feel this could have been closer to the Korean films which have rather a right mix of action and dramatic undercurrents. There is also the presence of a long haired assassin with a sword (Yayan Ruhian) who in one particular scene butchers down an entire gang of goons in an amazingly grotesque fashion . How I wished to see more of this character before he is killed in order to provide the film with proverbial twist in the tale.
In an action film, the performances are more than often not really given much attention to. As the attention is mostly towards staging the film with as many good action scenes as possible. One can only say the actors in the film do a rather satisfactory job with regards to the performances. Among the actors the performances of Ken Ichi Endo and Alex Abbad stand mainly due to the characterizations provided to them. Iko Uwais displays amazing agility in the action scenes and performs better compared to the first part. The dubbing snags persist in this film as well, however it is much better compared to the predecessor.
To sum it up, The Raid 2 in my opinion is a huge improvement over the over-hyped first part. It is a very brutal yet a very satisfying action film. If action with gore is what appeals to you, then head right-away for this one. You are bound to have a good time at the cinema.