The Raid 2


In 2011, Gareth Evans hauled off and smashed us in the face with The Raid, a stupendously brutal, high-energy action masterpiece that quickly crawled it’s way to be a contender for best action movie ever made thanks to it’s high levels of intensity and truly jaw-dropping acts of flesh shredding violence.
Well, in 2014, he aimed to do it again with the long awaited follow up, but rather going down the path of simply trapping his characters in yet another grimy, crime-ridden hell hole, Evans seemed to mix things up, not only changing the rules of the game, but switching the entire genre while he was at it to bring us The Raid 2. Gone was the claustrophobic action thriller vibes that gave the original its edgy energy and instead was a sprawling crime epic that demanded you follow numerous threads as the plot unfurled over a period of years, not hours. Less Die Hard and more a version of The Godfather where Sonny Corleone has the ability to roundhouse kick an assassin through a plate glass window, The Raid 2 had a lot to live up to – and guess what? It succeeded.


The shockwaves that radiated out the second hapless officer, Rama, stepped out of a crime-run slum in Jakarta have started to hit hard with the survivors immediately painting massive bullseye’s on themselves merely from the fact that they arent dead. Loose ends are gathered up fast and Rama’s criminal brother is the first to get unceremoniously swept under the rug as he’s shot gunned into a shallow grave under the orders of rival ladder climber Bejo. As a result, Rama is convinced to go undercover in a God forsaken, Indonesian prison in order to snuggle up to Uco, the egotistical son of crime boss Bangun in a hope to one day nail epically crooked police chief Reza who has indirectly caused all this carnage.
However, after helpfully bonding during a hellish prison riot, Rama finds himself still in Uco’s employ after being released two years after first accepting the alias of Yuda and is suddenly thrown into a tangled web of deceit and murder when all he wants to do is go home and be with his wife and child.
You see, Uco is tired of waiting in the wings and believes his father has gone soft, so he’s gone and cooked up a plan with fellow plotter Bejo and his cadre of comic book psychos in order to fabricate a gang war to help both men ascend in their respective organisations. Wedged in the middle of this is poor old Rama, who’s somewhat unreliable link to the police is reluctant to pull him out and is forced to use his ability to whup serious ass to try and desperately survive as multiple crime empires clash and collapse all around him. But how long can he possibly last when such gaudily named lunatics such as the Assassin, Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Boy are queuing up to cave his face in?


Two things are painfully obvious from The Raid 2 and the first is that Evans is not a director who is interested in staying in one place as he goes the Ridley Scott/James Cameron route, making his hard-hitting sequel as different to The Raid as Aliens was from Alien – thankfully, he also manages to keep the quality intact even though he’s essentially making an entirely different kind of movie from the pulse (and face) pounding original. The second is that he’s obviously not afraid to upend everything in order to tell the story her wants to tell – while Iko Uwais wide-eyed rookie what undoubtedly the focus of the brutal fight for survival back in 2011, here he’s a little fish in a substantially bigger pond, that contains conflicting storylines that are equally as important as the insanely shitty hand Rama finds himself dealt. Not only do we get an equal amount of time devoted to Arifin Putra’s wannabe crime lord, Uco (you could argue that it’s more his story than Rama’s), but we also get various segues into the lives of seemingly unrelated characters just as burned out assassin, Prakoso (slightly confusingly played by Yayan Ruhain who also portrayed Mad Dog in the first movie), who’s murder is the catalyst to kicking off a gang war. If I’m being brutal (and why not, everyone else in the film is), the plot is so dense and tangled, those expecting the lithe, simple thrills of the original might end up being somewhat overwhelmed, but rest assured, The Raid 2 knows when to pack a punch when it needs to.


Unhelpfully advised by his handlers to “suck it up, don’t fuck it up” as he enters the hellish, dehumanising world of undercover work, Rama is put through a string of bruising encounters that not only equal the senses smashing brawls of The Raid, but in many ways actually surpasses it that’ll have alternating between genuine, action euphoria and reconciling at the screen screaming “‘Jesus, not in the face!” at regular intervals. This truly may be one of the most epic martial arts movies even mounted with Evans changing up the harrowing fisticuffs so nothing is allowed to get stale. A brawl in a toilet cubicle is eventually elevated to a devastating prison riot as men tear into each other in cloying mud. A car chase tears through the streets as Uwais engages in a four on one rumble inside one of the speeding vehicles and best of all, the climax sees our battered and bleeding hero overcome multiple blows to the head and significant blood loss to run a show stopping gauntlet of The Raid 2’s impressive line up of maniacs. While his trading of blows with deranged brother/sister duo Baseball Bat Boy and Hammer Girl (guess what their weapons are?) is one for the ages, his kitchen-based battle with Cecep Arif Rahman’s feral-grinned Assassin in a pristine white kitchen may actually be one of the greatest, on-screen bouts of martial arts of all time with the surround area slowly getting stained a deep crimson as the knives come out and the arteries start to be severed.


So which is better – The Raid or The Raid 2? Well, to bring back the Alien/Aliens analogy again, its chiefly down to personal preference as the two movies couldn’t be more different despite both featuring genuinely ghastly finishing moves that range from a face dragged across jagged brickwork to a face crunched into oblivion thanks to a hefty swing of an aluminium bat.
It’s no real surprise then that Evans funneled his love of stunningly animalistic violence and tangled gangster drama as he eventually was behind the first season of Gangs Of London for Sky, but as we still wait eagerly for him to break fully into the big time, we can all still enjoy his virtually perfect one-two shot to the solar plexus in all of its skin slicing, nose shattering, kidney pulping glory.


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