The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)

The Raid 2Released: March 28, 2014. Directed by: Gareth Evans. Starring: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Yayan Ruhian. Runtime: 150 min.

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.

Raid 2Iko 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.

Raid 2.0Evans’ 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.

Score83/100

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Serbuan maut (The Raid: Redemption) (2012)

 

Serbuan maut (The Raid: Redemption)

Release Date: March 23, 2012

Director: Gareth Evans

Stars: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy

Runtime: 101 min

Tagline: 1 Ruthless Crime Lord, 20 Elite Cops, 30 Floors of Hell

 

Wouldn’t 30 Floors of Hell have made a decent title? Maybe I only think so.

Rama (Iko Uwais) is the rookie officer on a SWAT team that has just infiltrated a tenement run by a ruthless crime lord, Tama (Ray Sahetapy). After their cover is blown by a young spotter, Tama offers lifetime sanctuary to every killer, thug, thief and gangster who will bring him the intruders’ heads. Now Rama must guide the remaining officers through the run-down building – every floor and every room – and complete the mission, and escape with his life.

The actors aren’t very well-known, but some bring some solid performances to their characters, at least for a full-throttle action flick; and especially for most of them being stuntmen.  The Raid offers pure entertainment, and that’s the main thing I took from it; and that Indonesians actually make pretty impressive films, especially with a budget of  1.1 million dollars.

The characters are pretty well-developed, especially Rama as he has a baby boy on the way and we want him out alive, as we don’t a child without a father out there. The plot is also well-developed, with the a few pleasant plot twists that are thrown at you, which in ways are sort of surprising – but it also left me thinking, “I should have saw that coming.”

The only flaws that I felt the film possessed was that some of the action sequences felt a bit dragged out, making me want someone to win the fight already. Though, the stunts were still sweet and some fights you could really get into, and if the good guy loses, the characters are generally likeable that you can be disappointed to see them go.

It’s a film that doesn’t have many flaws. The action is pretty non-stop, which makes it that much more enjoyable. There’s a few minutes of character or plot development in between, but don’t you worry, the action will be back in about one to three minutes.  The action sequences are very memorable, and the stunts are very cool, and the kills are quite amazing – from people being killed with just their opponents’ hands; to guns, to knives, to walls, to even broken doors.

If you don’t like reading subtitles the whole way through, don’t worry for those of you just tremble at the very thought – you have the option to watch it in Indonesian, English or even French. I personally don’t prefer the English choice for foreign films as their lips are quite out of sync, and the people who do the voice-over just annoy the heck out of me (so I just went with Indonesian). I like to read books, so in a way you’re just reading a story with the visuals just laid right there for you.

I wouldn’t be so bold to say this should win Best Film in a Foreign Language at the Academy Awards, but I wouldn’t say it shouldn’t be considered for at least a nomination, as it’s pretty well done and uses its simple, and occasionally [somewhat] complex, plot very much to its advantage. If there’s an award for Best Action film in a Foreign Language out there, though, this film will have that one in the bag.

The film is well-edited and well-made, and was a wicked experience with very cool stunts, and is a film I wouldn’t be against watching again in the future (maybe at least two or three months).

This is where I’d usually say who the film stars, but there wasn’t any stars that I was familiar with.

It’s a little-flawed foreign film that should really be checked out, as a great film is offered for those action fans who have the lack of stunt action late-winter blues. Just those of the faint of  heart should beware, though it’s like an action fan’s (especially for those fans who love stunts) wet dream. Judging by its box office earnings, it hasn’t been seen by as many as it should be (cashing in a bit more than four million; hopefully it’ll do well with its home media sales). It offers a really stellar action film experience that should be seen, and is the finest action film of 2012 (but I’m seeing The Expendables 2 soon, so that statement may not stand strong in a few days).

 

80/100