The Raid 2: Berandal is a direct sequel to 2012’s The Raid: Redemption (a.k.a. Serbuan maut), taking place a stated two hours after the first film ends. Since the timelines are so direct, it helps to watch the first film prior, and it isn’t a good idea to watch this film without watching the first. This is a great film, so it’s better enjoyed if you are familiar with the characters and the corruption of the depicted Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. The main character from the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais) is tasked with going undercover into the criminal underbelly of Jakarta, to basically bring down the syndicate and uncover corruption amongst his police force, to see if anyone will take bribes, that sort-of thing. To do so, he cannot have contact with his family and must be put in prison to become close to a future boss of the Jakarta crime ring, Uko (Arifin Putra).
Since Rama (acting under the name Yuka) is now an undercover cop, it makes the stakes even higher to his situation. It’s safe to say the majority of viewers will want him to get home safely to his wife and kid. The fact that his intentions can be compromised at any moment is a whole new intensity, and I think Gareth Evans handles that aspect well. In the character department, anyone will feel empathy for Rama’s wife as well, how she will probably always anticipate her husband coming home. I like Evans’ way of character building, where he highlights Rama’s desperation in listening to his son’s voice over the phone.
Iko Uwais’ performance as Rama is good. While he’s a stronger martial artist, he makes Rama believable – and he definitely has a lot more emotions to portray than the first film. The performances are all believable, if only a few are stand-outs. Other than the good characterization of Rama, the introduction of a few characters isn’t great. There are so many characters, and after awhile, it isn’t clear if some characters are on the Indonesian or Japanese side of the criminal underworld. There’s also some introductions of characters, where only their roles are established – but not perfectly, which is only the case with two or three characters. This was the case with an assassin who came out of nowhere. Maybe the distracting aspect of him is the fact that he’s portrayed by Yayan Ruhian, who portrayed Mad Dog in the first film; he just has longer hair. I’ve never thought using an actor to portray a different character in the sequel is a good idea. It’s just distracting. And sometimes their names are thrown around, and it’s hard to remember who they are because you would have only seen them once before.
I think the lack of clarity with these characterizations makes the film a bit harder to follow than necessary. What makes this harder to follow at points, is how quickly the subtitles go by. There’s a lot more dialogue this time around, and I think Evans miscalculates how fast everyone can read. Sometimes, they just zoom by. To easily follow some of this, a good attention to detail helps. Other than that, Evans’ direction of the fight choreography and his editing is phenomenal. Evans paints a realistic and interesting picture of Jakarta’s criminal underworld, and the powerful figures of Jakarta in general. I like his ideas on power, as well. He writes in some simple but effective comedy throughout the film. Some of his writing and order of scenes seems out of place at times, but I do love his direction, eye for imagery and attention to detail.
Evans’ vision is much grander in scale than the first film, which took place in one thirty-floor building. The fact that he was able fit so much simple characterization into the premise of the first one was impressive. Here, he attempts to do a similar thing – minimalist characterization with certain characters – but he’s doing it with many more settings, a more epic story, and a longer runtime; so while it is still effective for certain characters, it doesn’t reach the same level of effectiveness as the first one.
The diversity of where action sequences take place is great, though. Car chases, prison riots, kitchens, to name a few; and they’re all brilliant. The stuntwork is truly awesome and impressive. Some of the enemies are awesome, especially one that uses hammers as her weapon of choice, and another who is skilled at baseball. These weapons allow some great sound editing to take place, and some great kills. There are points when the violence is over-the-top excessive, but that’s the charm of it all – and it seems to me that the overly excessive violence is brief. You’re still going to be saying “Ooooh! Ahhh! Awesome” in your seat throughout. Or maybe “sweet baby Jesus,” like someone said at the screening I attended. The runtime is much longer than the first (by nearly 50 minutes), but that’s because the story is a bit slower and gives the audience more breathers from the non-stop action. Like the first one, you’ll need a nap after the craziness of all the action.
Some fights are lengthy, but to consider the lengths people go through to choreograph it all, and direct it to a great vision, is beyond impressive. The training the actors go through must be extensive, I think it’s awesome that these guys get so into it – knowing myself, I’d be too timid to do anything like this. It’s joyous to watch the authentic stunt work, and all the great combat. The runtime is necessary for Evans to achieve his grand vision and to include all these great action sequences.