‘The Raid 2: Berandal’ picks up two hours after the events depicted in ‘The Raid: Redemption’ (reviewed here: http://moviesaccordingtodave.blogspot.com/2012/04/raid-die-hard-indonesia-style.html), 2011’s ‘Die Hard’ actioner starring Iko Uwais which gave the world a glimpse of the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat. Well, not exactly. While the first scene of the movie did pick up two hours after rookie-SWAT team cop Rama’s harrowing ordeal in the apartment complex, he wasn’t immediately thrust into another life-or-death struggle as we might expect. Rather, he’s recruited by the super-secret Internal Affairs division of the Jakarta Police and sent on a deep-cover mission infiltrating Jakarta’s top organized crime syndicate to root out corrupt high level police officials. Most of the events of this sequel actually occurred two years after ‘The Raid: Redemption.’
Welsh director Gareth Evans’s follow-up to his surprising sleeper hit isn’t as good as the original, but it is still an action-packed, chop-socky martial-arts film that managed to thrill and dazzle. While the original was a gripping and tightly plotted movie from beginning to end, this sequel had pacing issues and was burdened with an overly convoluted plot. At two-and-a-half hours, it took a while before the movie revved up the pace, and what saved it for me was that the payoff was well worth the wait. Once again, Iko Uwais’s Rama/Yuda is a pencak silat force of nature, a ‘human tornado’ who, with his lightning fast flurries of blows and kicks, is simply irresistible to watch in action. It’s hard to believe the fight sequences are choreographed ballets of bloodshed and death.
Whereas ‘The Raid: Redemption’ is a martial arts ‘Die Hard,’ ‘The Raid 2' a hard-boiled crime thriller reminiscent of ‘Infernal Affairs’ and early John Woo films. Even more of a bloodbath than its predecessor, this movie exists in its own universe because the law-of-the-jungle world it portrays is incongruous with what we expect in a civilized society of law-and-order, but such is the nature of Asian action movies. 'The Raid 2' also has characters bordering on caricatures like those you would see in the most indulgent Quentin Tarantino movies, including a homeless bum contract killer and a pair of young assassins whom I call ‘Bat Boy’ and ‘Hammer Girl.’ Gratuitously bloody and gory, 'The Raid 2' aims to satisfy our appetite for violence on a primal level even as it mesmerizes us with its whirlwind martial-arts mayhem.