The Raid 2

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
The Raid 2
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

In “The Raid: Redemption (2011),” Rama (Iko Uwais) was the last cop standing after an epic battle between a Jakarta SWAT team and the minions of drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy). But, just when he thought he could return to his young wife and child, his superior sends him back undercover to make his way up the criminal hierarchy to ferret out corrupt, high-ranking police officers in “The Raid 2.”

Welsh-born filmmaker Gareth Evans began his writer-director career with his debut thriller, “Footsteps (2003)” set in Wales. Since then he has made his home base in Jakarta, Indonesia, beginning with “Merantu (2009).” His next work, “The Raid,” though, established him as a world-class action director who also has the talent to cloak his action inside a taut thriller story. With “The Raid 2,” he ramps up the action, mayhem and epic martial arts with choreographic skill.

“The Raid” confined its setting to a single building, a fortress, in the heart of Jakarta. In “The Raid 2,” the setting is the entire sprawl of that city as Rama, undercover name Yuda, insinuates himself into the mob as a lowly soldier. When he saves the life of Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo), Yuda begins his climb up the gangster ladder with the goal to find out who is on the take in his police department. Gareth Evans keeps this pursuit clear and up front in a story that could have been swallowed up by the enormous number of complex and beautifully staged action scenes (and there are many including a kickass car chase through the streets of Jakarta).

Speaking of action sequences: if you liked the fights in “The Raid,” where the two sides go at each other with guns, then knives and clubs and, finally, bare fists; you are going to love the fight action in its sequel. I did not think it possible, but Evans ramps up even that action with one against many fights as Rama/Yuda must prove both his loyalty and his fighting skill to his underworld masters. Some of the fights – like the one between the bad guy’s henchmen, Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) – go on for extended periods of time, but were never overlong or boring. The fights are not just repetitions of one another as each is a unique dance of martial arts skill. The big, sprawling finale makes the first “Raid’s” 10-minute battle royal seem brief but it is never dull or boring.

Fans of the Asian action film genre, particularly those who liked “The Raid,” are in for an exciting fast-pace, violence-laden battle between the good guys and the bad guys. I give it an A-.

After a grueling day of mayhem vanquishing drug lord Tama's Jakarta stronghold, rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais, "The Raid: Redemption") just wants to go home to his wife and child.  But his dying brother Andi tells him he must go to 'good' cop Bunawar (Cok Simbara) who informs him that Tama was just the tip of the iceberg and Rama will have a death sentence over his head if he doesn't go deep undercover and gun for big boss Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo) by sidling up to Bangun's imprisoned son Uco (Arifin Putra) in "The Raid 2."

Writer/director Gareth Evans has sure found his balliwick in Asian crime martial arts actioners and he's upped his ante in this sequel which may be the most violent non cult film ever released. The action's been both opened up with more locations and closed in (a pileup in a prison toilet stall!) with Uwais and Ruhian choreographing stunts that might leave Jackie Chan breathless.  Evans has also taken his first shot at a car chase which he's also turned into another extended fight scene. Genre fans will be exhilarated beyond belief, especially after they get a load of hammer girl (Julie Estelle) and bat boy (Very Tri Yulisman, "The Raid: Redemption").

Jailed with an alias of a rural thug named Yuda, Rama quickly establishes his cred by making mincemeat of them in a bathroom stall.  His exploits earn a visit from Uco and Rama's positioned just where he wants to be.  After one more outrageous set piece in a muddy prison yard which had me wondering how the cameraman managed to stay upright, Rama's released right into the lap of Bangun, who gives him a job, penthouse apartment and a guarantee that he will not be crossed.  When the Yakuza Bangun has peacefully coexisted with take out long time hit man Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian, "The Raid's" Mad Dog), Uco's dead set on revenge, but Bangun will not act against boss Goto (Ken'ichi Endô, "Nobody Knows") leaving Uco ripe for the picking by Strangelovian crime boss Bejo (Alex Abbad, "Merantau") with their shared hatred of the Japanese.  Rama, caught in the crossfire, finds an unexpected ally in the all out war which ensues.

I have no idea who's being targeted by Hammer Girl on a subway car, but his army of bodyguards are no match for the hardware swinging beauty, the heiress apparent to Kill Bill's Gogo Yubari.  Her partner in iconic crime is a baseball bat wielding psychopath who makes sickly music on skulls when he's not blasting them apart with speed balls.  After a car chase that outdoes anything in the "Fast & Furious" franchise, Rama will be up against both at the same time before a final showdown.  At least until we pick up on the next one the exhausted cop's left facing at this film's close.

Evans has given us the rare sequel that trumps the original (this was the film he intended to make first but had to dial back upon due to budgetary constraints) and everything about the production is outstanding.  Production design with its greens and blues is often reminiscent of the stylish but abhorrent "Only God Forgives," cinematography sometimes seems death defying and sound is visceral. "The Raid 2" is not for the squeamish nor those who'll take offense at audience members gleefully hooting at carnage (as was experienced at a press screening(!), along with subtitles 5 seconds out of synch).

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