Steve Puddicombe, former student ambassador and regular at City Screen in York, takes at look at Gareth Evans’ action sequel THE RAID 2
“It’s a question of ambition, really,” are the first words spoken in THE RAID 2, and as a statement of intent they apply to the film itself as much as to the characters. Whereas the exhilarating first film THE RAID was held within the confines of a thin plot, a 100-minute runtime and a single apartment block, its sequel aspires to be far grander in scale.
The extra 50 minutes’ runtime allows for much more plot, and director Gareth Evans has woven a meaty crime saga. The hero Rama (Iko Uwais), having defeated the occupants of the tower block in the first film, is convinced to go undercover in the criminal underworld of Jakarta, where he bears witness to the brutal violence, ruthless double-crossing and – that word again – reckless ambition of the gangsters who populate the city.
Under the obvious major influence of THE GODFATHER, the compelling story delivers tense encounters and sneering antagonists aplenty. But what makes the film an instant classic of the martial-arts genre is its extraordinary action set pieces. Crucially, Evans’ narrative ambition never makes him forget that it was the brilliant choreography and inventive cinematography that made the original such a success, and each plot twist in THE RAID 2 still largely functions as a means to the end of another thrillingly executed fight scene.
Those who missed the original (and can stomach 18-rated violence) will be blown away by the film’s kinetic, bloody, ultra-stylised aesthetic, while fans of THE RAID will be ecstatic to learn that Evans still has plenty of fresh ideas. Highlights include a mud-soaked prison riot, a pair of cartoony villains called Baseball-Bat Man and Hammer Girl, and possibly the best car chase since THE FRENCH CONNECTION.
The action scenes – as well as the ritualistic moments that immediately precede outbreaks of violence – are like nothing else you’ll find on the big screen, and make THE RAID 2 essential viewing for genre enthusiasts.