Let me start off by giving a sort of brief disclaimer. This won’t be a traditional review, rather a suggestion of something that may or may not be worth your time. See, I have hard time with the notion that I might actually have some sort of qualification to deem something good or bad. I might have studied film and make films (albeit very small, small endeavors), but my favorite movies are things that I tend to like just because. My taste isn’t for everyone, so when it comes to whether something is good or bad, how many thumbs up or down, a rating between one and ten, or how many stars something is worth, I just can’t bring myself to force an opinion.
Regardless, every week I’m going to work through my insecurity and tell you about something that I think is cool to watch. You can check it out, or not. Here we go!
The Raid 2: Berandal hit select theaters this past weekend and I haven’t been this satisfied with a kung-fu action film since, well, the first of The Raid films. See, I’m a guy that enjoys himself some spectacle. Awesome firefights, crazy car chases, bloody and unforgiving hand-to-hand combat, and a smidgen of narrative development are my bread and butter. I received all of those things and more from The Raid 2: Berandal.
The Raid 2 takes place an approximate two hours after the first film in the series, so I suggest you see the first one before taking the awesome plunge into the second. We follow Rama (Iko Uwais), a police officer in Jakarta, Indonesia, who after fighting his way through an apartment complex full of angry gang members has uncovered the corrupt nature of his police department. The results of the first film force Rama to go undercover within the organized crime world of Jakarta to sniff out corrupt police officials. However, when Rama gets too deep he finds himself once again fighting to survive in a war between rival gangs while trying to search out the corrupt officials and get his life back in order.
I wish I could go into more detail about the story in The Raid 2, but to do anymore than I have runs the risk of spoiling the first film, so sadly I must refrain. However, I will tell you that for a movie that is built around action and violence, Gareth Evans (the writer/director/editor) has managed to get a fantastic performance out of his actors. All of this is amazing considering Gareth Evans is a guy from Wales, and all of the actors/actresses are from Indonesia and don’t have English as their first language. For an action movie these characters are developed, they have arcs, and nothing feels too forced. It all just fits, and I found all of the performances to be exactly what was required. And that’s quite a feat to be had considering the content at play here.
The real reason why action junkies should be coming in droves to enjoy The Raid 2 is for the best action stunt choreography I think I have ever seen. Unlike most martial art films that center on theatrical kung-fu, The Raid films feature the Indonesian martial art of Silat. Nothing about Silat is cute or graceful. Bones break, ligaments are torn, arms and legs go in directions you don’t want them to go, and people—the main character included—generally come across as fragile. Add some gun and knife play to the mix and you have brutal action sequences that had everyone in my audience responding audibly to the violence on screen. For people who love a good action movie, the honest brutality of the combat in The Raid 2 will come across as refreshing and cathartic. The movie simply refuses to look away from the result of people trying to kill one another, it doesn’t use movie magic to sugar coat anything—it’s messy, painful to watch, and it’s all better for it.
If the red band trailer wasn’t enough, here’s another taste:
I thoroughly enjoyed The Raid 2: Berandal, probably more than The Raid: Redemption, and that’s a grand statement from me because I love that movie. I love that movie probably more than I love breakfast; I wish I could make more time for breakfast, but I digress… If you’re looking for a good action movie to sink your teeth into this week, or if you just want an excuse to pretend like you know martial arts for an hour or so post viewing, The Raid 2: Berandal might just be what you need.
If the Raid 2 is unavailable in your area, then look for The Raid: Redemption online or on DVD, just find it. Both of these films are worth your time, and you’ll want to see the first one before the second anyways.
Oh, and guys, if you’re planning on bringing your girlfriends to see The Raid 2 in a theater, maybe test out her reaction to the first film before you go. Trust me, I write for Writtalin.