The 2011 Indonesian martial-arts/survival-horror action movie The Raid: Redemption was a violently intense, thrilling journey through a house of mayhem. As groundbreaking a film as it was, director Gareth Evans created it as a prequel to a much more ambitious project — a movie called Berandal (Indonesian for "thugs"). XYZ Films needed money to fund this project, and after the success of The Raid: Redemption, the filmmakers were able to bring The Raid 2, their masterpiece of an action movie, to the screen. It opens areawide on Friday. It’s clear from the opening imagery that The Raid 2 is no mere sequel. A long shot of a green field shown for multiple minutes provides a clear juxtaposition to the fast-paced claustrophobic tone of the first film, as the first few scenes destroy everything that was achieved by the end of the prequel. This film isn’t the typical repeated formulaic experience you would expect from a sequel; it retains all the hallmarks that made the first movie memorable, while creating a world full of legitimate stakes that make the fighting that much more dramatic and intense.
The plot centers on Rama (played by Evans' martial arts muse, Iko Uwais), a cop bent on bringing to justice corrupt police officials and gangsters who have wreaked havoc on his life. In order to do this, Rama's do-good police investigator plans to send him into prison to make contact with crime boss Bangun's son Uco (Arifin Putra). When he's released from jail, he infiltrates the criminal organization, intent on gathering enough evidence to convict the nefarious parties. The story borrows from The Departed but adds quite a bit of originality and twists that build to a calamitous feud between the police and rival crime families.
Most of the fighting in this movie comes in the form of an Indonesian martial art called pencak silat. This brutally fast-paced aggressive fighting style often ends in a bone-crunching blood-bath bordering on torture-porn. To say the violence in this movie is intense is an understatement. As crazy as the first Raid movie was, this ups the ante ten-fold. Rama single-handedly obliterates hoards of ruthless baddies; he shows no mercy in using knives, bottles, broomsticks or whatever else is lying around. Think "blood-thirsty Jackie Chan." The fight scenes are expertly choreographed and include long takes to show off the fighters’ skill, quick cuts that amp up the pace of the action and the occasional high-speed chase sequence (Rama fights his way out of moving vehicles more than once). Evans and his cast of Indonesian performers create an extremely genuine portrayal of violence, literally pulling no punches—all of the impacts in this movie are real. The performers had to learn how to control their hits to avoid hurting each other. Special effects amp up the gore of slashes and limb snapping that will make you squirm.
It’s not just beatings and mayhem that make The Raid 2 exceptional. The creepiest of creepy villains immensely raises the stakes for our hero. "Hammer Girl," played by up and coming Indonesian actor Julie Estelle, whose weapon of choice is obvious, is a force to be reckoned with. Her sadistic thrashings prove a formidable opposition to Rama, as does her counterpart Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman), who can kill by hitting a baseball with terrifying accuracy. Other memorable characters include Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), who resembles an old homeless man but is actually a seasoned killer for hire, and Bejo (Alex Abbad), the crippled and ambitious crime boss who's restaurant you wouldn't want to be in after hours. Though Rama seems to be caught in the middle of these ruthless maniacs, he is just as relentless and dangerous as they are. This film is an endurance test in how much violence you can view in one sitting, and with a 148-minute runtime, this is no simple feat.
While not for those sensitive to depictions of violence, The Raid 2 is a solid cinematic experience. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, you can appreciate the crafting of the story that is expertly fused to the beautifully shot imagery and memorable settings. Prepare to be immersed in a beautifully bloody, sense-scathing crime-laden experience. Fans of the original film will not be disappointed with this sequel, and it’s surely better than the upcoming U.S. remake that’s bound to be a watered-down travesty.