The following is a review written for Easternkicks.com and reposted here. The Raid 2 was originally viewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival 2014
Gareth Evans returns with his sequel to the smash martial arts hit The Raid; proving it is possible to go bigger, badder and better than the original.
Director: Gareth Evans
The Raid 2 is Gareth Evans' powerful follow-up to his original film The Raid: Redemption. An action martial-arts gorefest that has more deaths and bone crunches to satisfy all savoring tastes, Evans has delivered a powerful film that could become one of the expected stars of the year.
Iko Uwais returns as Rama from the original, picking up just hours after the credits where he is subsequently drafted into a top secret undercover unit of cop busters, then gets immediately redeployed to prison whilst expected to abandon his family, get arrested and become friends with the local triad leader’s offspring. It sets a rampant pace that doesn’t relent as the glorious wide location shots give a smatter of breathing room amongst the pacey cuts and swift kicks, and this relentless action continues for another 150 minutes yet whilst never slowing down, it faces growing turgid at points.
The best part about the original film was that it never needed too much think about and instead as a viewer; you could just watch it without needing to worry. The sequel stumbles on this as it contains an over-padded plot, where local factions are embroiled in a turf war and Rama’s new friend wants a slice of the pie. All of this combined with new fight and action sequences every few moments leaves little breathing room for the viewer, and the glorification of the violence is elevated to a whole new level with camera movements that don’t just track the action but drag you right in, with cameras being passed through speeding cars and flipping at weird angles to follow the propelled ascent of assaulted baddies.
In a film such as this, there is little need to take notice of the plot and with as much SPI and Donnie Yen Action-Dramas on the market, sometimes a piece of good old action-porn is needed to clear the vents. It is definitely here where Evans excels as both an editor and director, bringing a new element to the film with the expanded budget and larger set pieces, bigger fights and more brutalization than you could imagine. Unfortunately there could be more focus and expansion at times, particularly on characters that seemed
interesting in the trailer (such as Hammer Girl or Baseball-bat Guy) but get little in the way of backstory or focus in the script, instead serving as the occasional Deus Ex-Machina to help Evans work his way out of an awkwardly choreographed jam.
The bloating of stars and the convoluted plot leave little room for expansion, especially with a father/son crime drama that wastes too much time on exposition and setup of a narrative that is unnecessary, but it’s logical that Evans couldn’t follow the simplistic, linear video game that was The Raid: Redemption. The extended running time feels sore at points, especially where the action lulls and exposition suddenly reappears, jolting you back out of concentrating on the graphic violence (which really is at some sections too realistic), however Evans work in the cutting rooms helps to sow together all the cracks as he balances the massive amount of balls in play. The opening suffers from some running issues, with the narrative becoming convoluted before the first exposition dump and the confusion quickly resolved, but this could have easily been sorted by not going off on an unlinear gore-rant.
Overall, what else is there to say about The Raid 2: Berandal? It’s an action film that delivers on the action, it has the occasional stumbling block and could do with being cut half an hour, but is overall far too enjoyable and feels like we should be charged more for this kind of entertainment. Evans is taking a few years away before he shoots The Raid 3, but hopefully he doesn’t take too long out.