Saturday, July 19, 2014

"The Raid 2": A Brutal, Brainy Continuation

Now Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

The Raid 2 is great example of exactly how to do a sequel.  It is not a retelling of the plot of the first film.  It sees the flaws in the first film’s execution and seeks to remedy them.  Perhaps most importantly, though, it recognizes what made the first film so much fun to watch, and it capitalizes on that in spades.  As far as raw, brutal action flicks go, The Raid 2 is one of the best that I’ve seen in a long time, and though I do have a few problems with it, I wholly recommend the experience.

The Raid 2 picks up just after where the first film left off, with raid-survivor Rama being recruited by police internal affairs to go undercover in a criminal organization to root out any corrupt cops that may be associated with it.  Whereas the first film had a simple premise that acted as an excuse to have a ton of brawls and gunplay, The Raid 2 opts to enhance the story elements this time around, using intricate plots of betrayal and criminal politics as the backdrop against which the action takes place.  And this is an improvement in my book.  The first film was great for what it was, but I wouldn’t call its attempts at storytelling ambitious.  The Raid 2 seeks to build a complex world with more emphasis on characters and how their relationships lead to epic conflicts, and it largely succeeds.

But when the talking is done and over with, the fights come back in full force, and now there’s a vast variety of locations and improvised weaponry that The Raid’s Jakarta high rise just can’t compete with.  The fights take place in wide open areas, giving the fighters more room to maneuver, and it’s very satisfying to see exactly what these performers are able to do.  What really takes the cake this time around, though, are the villain character designs.  The Raid had one fairly generic guy who preferred hand-to-hand combat to guns… sorta just because.  The Raid 2 has a woman duel-wielding claw hammers, a guy sporting a baseball bat AND WEAPONIZED BASEBALLS, and an assassin so skilled in martial arts that he is content to peck away at inferior opponents to gauge their strength.  Watching the unique ways that each of these characters fight is a real treat, and I guarantee that you won’t forget their scenes any time soon.

If I have one major complaint, it’s that I think the film is a bit too long.  The entire film is two and a half hours, and I think there’s a good half hour of that that could have been left on the cutting room floor.  In particular, there’s a part roughly an hour into the film that follows the life of an assassin who works for the crime family Rama has been adopted into.  Though this character’s eventual death is a driving force in events to come, the emotional build-up to that death is really not.  This character seems to primarily exist to add some action scenes in a part of the film that’s relatively devoid of them, but the film diverts its attention to him for way too long.  There was actually a point when Rama enters back into frame and I thought “Oh yeah, that’s the protagonist, isn’t it.  Where’ve you been?”  That said, though, the assassin’s scenes are entertaining in their own right, but they just don’t really serve a greater purpose except to lengthen an already long-enough runtime.

The Raid 2 turned out to be a fantastic film, and if you have any interest in martial arts, this is one to check out.  Aside from a few scenes at the very beginning of the film, its plot stands alone as an excellent crime thriller, so seeing the original movie isn’t even a requirement (though I’d highly recommend it on its own merits).  All in all, The Raid 2 delivers on bringing a more intense, more intelligent version of its predecessor, and as an action fan, I couldn’t be happier.

What sequels do you think have turned out better than the original?  Let me know in the comments below.

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