Badass Berendal: Gareth Evans Delivers a Bloody Good Time
Bigger is palpably better. In Gareth Evans’ eagerly anticipated and ambitious sequel to his 2011 cult hit The Raid, everything is on a bigger scale. Gone is the confined fighting quarters of one building, and in its place are grandiose sets wherein lead fighting machine Iko Uwais, (returning as protagonist Rama), can make mincemeat out of his opponents. Genre fans, and aficionados of the first film will be salivating over the extended rapid-fire, blood splattering, savage fight sequences with which this film is bulging. With a 150-minute running time, director and screenwriter Evans is also given ample time to nimbly create an intricately woven Godfather-like tale that was consciously absent in the first bare bones, spare film. The Raid 2 will undoubtedly keep auds’ hearts racing and adrenaline pumping from its first quiet moments to its deliciously gory, exhilarating finale.
Beginning a mere two hours after the ending of the first film, The Raid 2 opens with undercover cop Rama being given a new assignment. It seems the epic bloodbath from the first film only managed to underhand the pond scum of corrupt policemen and politicians, with the upper echelon of criminals still on the loose. With the aid of his police boss, he is to leave his wife and toddler son, and be given an alternate identity so he can establish himself as a criminal thug in prison. There, he is to sidle up to Ucok (Arfin Putra), whose father Bangun (Tio Pakusdewo) operates the criminal underworld with Brando-esque feline ferocity and panache. After rescuing Ucok in a lavishly staged, mud-soaked assassination attempt by a swarm of fellow prisoners, the now compadres are released from prison and Rama is swiftly taken under the wing of Bangun, who cooly foreshadows that nobody can be trusted. Sure enough, in the upper tiers of the Jakarta gangland, everyone may dress sharply and adopt a classier way of doing things (including slaughtering Judases), but they are all cunningly plotting to be the alpha male.
While some may complain about the cliche-ridden plot wherein family is for all that is worth fighting, Evans’ script expertly establishes plot maneuvers for every central character, thus allowing a kinship with each. The fights are no longer merely visual spectacle, but lyrical compositions that blossoms and evolves each character development. The most memorable and touching of these tableaus occurs when Yayan Ruhian (who played the memorable “Mad Dog” in the first film, but now plays assassin Prakoso) valiantly engages in an all-out, kill-or-be-killed, poetic ferocious ballet with a locket of his estranged child in his sanguinary clutches.
Detractors of the Raid films have reviled the brutal carnage as almost pornographic, yet to view Evans’ masterworks in this narrowed light would be missing the pure beauty of its essence. The aforementioned scene is emblematic of a philosophical and heroic fight for hope in a bloodstained world, replete with energetic long takes, stunning art direction, and masterful editing. The Raid 2 is an operatic magnum opus worth seeing.