Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Raid 2: Berandal - Movie Review

The Raid 2: Berandal is an Indonesian martial arts, action movie written and directed by Gareth Evans and is a sequel to his 2011 smash hit, The Raid: Redemption. The movie stars Iko Uwais, Arafin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, and Julie Estelle.

The story picks up a couple hours after the conclusion of The Raid: Redemption where Rama (Iko Uwais) has survived the botched mission to shut down a drug lord and the entire building he has taken over. Now the stakes are even higher as he is recruited by the internal affairs department of the police force to go undercover and root out corruption at the highest levels of both the police and the most powerful gangs in the city. As Rama goes deeper into the underworld, he finds himself thrown into the middle of a war between rival gangs and Bejo (Alex Abbad), an up and coming player who is pitting them all against each other in an effort to take over the entire game.

If you're not familiar with The Raid: Redemption or The Raid 2: Berandal, I would highly recommend changing that as soon as possible. These are, no joke, two of the greatest martial arts, action movies of all time...of all time. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating here. While the first installment is a non-stop, balls out action fest that immediately punches you right in the face and doesn't stop until the end credits roll, the sequel expands on the story and really digs deep into the world of Indonesian crime syndicates. Topics that are hinted at in the first movie become fully developed plot lines in Berandal which allows for a much bigger scale and the action really goes to another level.

Writer and director Gareth Evans has had this story in his back pocket for a while and it was actually the success of The Raid that allowed him to develop it into the feature film we all get to enjoy. His style of film making is pretty unique when compared to his contemporaries. There's really no one else out there right now bringing the level of intense action to fight scenes that literally leave you breathless and grabbing the edge of your seat. More importantly, the action set pieces aren't just frivolously thrown in, they are specific pieces of the story and carefully integrated to move the plot forward rather than just being there for the sake of seeing people get kicked, punched, thrown, shot, stabbed, run over, blown up, hacked, slashed, smashed, bludgeoned, beat down, and bloodied. That being said, there is brother and sister team, played by Very Tri Yulisman and Julie Estelle respectively, who's fighting styles include the use of claw hammers and a baseball bat. Just imagine the possibilities!

Sure, Evans is a pretty amazing martial arts director, but this film would not be anywhere near as good as it is without the choreography and design skills of its lead actor Iko Uwais and co-star Yayan Ruhian who plays Prakoso, a total bad ass who gets to beat up a whole bunch of people in the movie. These guys work so hard at putting together fight scenes that are as entertaining as they are complex while incorporating the Silat style of fighting which they have each mastered over years of training. You will not find a more brutal and punishing style in the martial arts world and it translates beautifully on screen thanks to the collaborative efforts of everyone involved. I highly  recommend watching any of the behind the scenes featurettes that you can find so you can see just how difficult some of this stuff is to put on film. All this and I haven't even mentioned the car chase that should be considered one of the best and most innovative ever to be put on film.

Yes, I may be hyping this movie up to the point of setting an unrealistic expectation that could lead to disappointment when you do sit down to watch it, but you know really is that good. I will say that if you are a fan of martial arts movies and Asian cinema in general, you will undoubtedly enjoy this movie and it was even better after watching it a second time. I will say the 150 minute run time may seem a bit excessive as Evans throws in lots of character and plot development, but none of it really seemed frivolous or unnecessary. As a martial arts feature, The Raid 2: Berandal does just about everything right while pushing the boundaries of what to expect from a genre that has honestly been lacking real innovation for quite some time.


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