[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00IG9DESC][/pullquote] When The Raid was released in 2012 it catapulted director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais into the public consciousness. Original conceived as a prison drama with undercover elements, it proved to complex to film on a small budget and the film was scaled down to a tower heist. The necessity of a bare bones script combined with revolutionary direction and exhilarating, heart-stopping action had critics from all over the would falling over one another to heap praise upon the accomplishment. The incredible success from such modest origins gave them the funds to complete a sequel The Raid 2, which is loosely based on the original script that launched this blossoming franchise.
Following immediately after the events of the original film, SWAT team member and only survivor of a raid on a tower block Rama (Iko Uwais) find himself forced into a position where he must go undercover into a prison and align himself with Uco (Arifin Putra) the son of a gang warlord. The mission is to infiltrate the gang and discover the source of police corruption, which is preventing the force from taking them down once and for all. Once inside, Rama ingratiates himself to Uco by defending him from attack and is rewarded upon being released with a high-ranking place in the gang. Isolated from his wife, children and life, Rama must find out who the corrupt police officers while trying to avoid becoming embroiled in a war between the various gangs in Jakarta.
To surmise a story like The Raid 2 would take an age and even then it may not quite describe the sheer size and scope of the thing. Where the first had the novelty factor as well as a very claustrophobic tower block to contend with, the sequel sprawls all over the place, with beautiful shots showing the different elements that make up Jakarta’s stunning scenery. There a sense of real size and impact, while the gang politics hark back to Infernal Affairs. It plays out like the violent lovechild of The Godfather Part II and Enter the Dragon, with shifting loyalties, power plays and simmering rivalries. If anything it could have done with removing some of the superfluous plot elements and got stuck into the action a bit sooner. But Evans success has given him more freedom to make the film he wanted to, so you can forgive him the odd pacing indiscretion.
The characters remain a touch on the paper-thin side, although the additions of the excellent Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and the creepy Bejo (Alex Abbad) all add a little bit of flavour to proceedings. Meanwhile lead star Iko Uwais retains his stoic and silent characteristics, preferring to let his fists do the talking and his showdown with the assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman) in the finale might just be the single greatest cinematic fight scene of all time, and that is no exaggeration.
The complex narrative, filled with cliched martial arts characters and in some cases caricatures comes to a head with a declaration of war between the various gangs, line is uttered that changes the pace of the film entirely. “It’s on.” Never a truer word spoken. If you think the action in the original film was a sight to see, nothing will prepare you for the series of battles that Rama must survive in order to bring down the gangs and survive to get back to his family.
Guns, car chases, knives, baseball bats and even hammers are thrown into the mix and you’re barely given a chance to breathe as each scene increases in intensity and brutality. Then just when you think it’s bordering on the verge of becoming a parody of itself, Evans cleverly brings you back to reality with a carefully placed kick to the face. It is in this final act that The Raid 2 transcends itself and becomes the cinematic martial arts masterpiece that you’ve been hoping for throughout.