Posted April 12, 2014 by D. K. Holm
If nothing else, The Raid 2 reminds the viewer that most cop movies these days are really war movies. Cinema’s police operate in teams or squads, and are equipped with a wealth of hardware and firepower, while tending to arrive en masse in huge transport vehicles along with a tank or two. In the real world, this militarization of the police has been in effect since the birth of the SWAT team, and reached its pinnacle in Boston with the citywide hunt for terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. What happens in the movie world is that genres that should be separate are now blended, mirroring a trend across cinema wherein the popular base for a film is expanded by appealing to those who like both cops and soldiers, as they once liked time travel blended with teen sex comedy, and so on since the 1980s.
The Raid 2 is the sequel to the balletic 2011 film The Raid: Redemption, starring pencak silat martial arts star Iko Uwais, with co-choreographer Yayan Ruhian playing the vicious fighter representing the bad guys. Though directed by a filmmaker from Wales, Gareth Evans (who has just done the new Godzilla film), the Raid series is set in Indonesia, the location for the recent documentary The Act of Killing, about memories of murder. The plot of the first film was simple: A 20-member SWAT embarks on a raid of a huge apartment complex ruled by a crime kingpin. Only a handful survive the siege after enduring what seems like a two-hour version of the two minute hallway sequence from OldBoy. Like many popular tales since the silent days, the film pits two brothers against each other, one a rookie cop, the other a seasoned criminal. Pencak silat is the general term for Indonesian fighting, and seems to feature a lot of kicking, and acrobatic jumping around, and here the skill unites the otherwise divided brothers, who must team up to defeat the villain, who has superior skills.
The sequel is apparently a repurposed version of the film the team of Evans and Uwais were going to make before The Raid but couldn’t ignite for budget reasons, settling for the “cheaper” The Raid (which was their second film, after 2009’s Merantau). 2 picks up shortly after the end of The Raid, with the rookie cop now going undercover into the octopus of the Jakartan crime system where two mobs have an uneasy alliance, a home grown Indonesian gang and an alien Japanese cartel. Far from the exquisite simplicity of the Raid setup, 2 is complicated, with a lot of names and relationships needing to be memorized quickly, introduced as if in a confusing as a Star Wars crawl. But soon one has bearings, and there follows a series of isolated dance numbers, including an almost one-take prison-yard fight-sequence in the mud. Like The Raid, there are unexpected yet exhilarating camera angles and motions, and beautifully complicated acrobatics, but they are glued together in a tale as old as the Hollywood crime film The Killers, and with an increase in the bodily fluids and gristle factor. The film is also an hour longer. The Raid 2 can be fun and even funny sometimes, but much more than The Raid: Redemption, this film feels like a Hollywood audition film, rather than a sleek, vital minor action film, like its predecessor.