The Raid 2: Berandal (Indonesia, 2014)
There are films you anticipate so much that by the time you watch them, there is no way on earth it can match the expectations you’ve placed on it. And then there are films that are so astounding, so breathtaking, that no amount of anticipation built up will diminish the viewing experience. Thankfully, The Raid 2: Berendal falls into the later category, as I would have been horribly disappointed if my expectations weren’t met. And not only were they met, they were completely obliterated.
Picking up immediately where the first film left off, our devoted cop Rama (Iko Uwais) finds that not only is his life in danger, but also the lives of his family. The corruption that he uncovered in the first film runs deep, and so he is tasked with going undercover to penetrate the Jakarta criminal underworld in hopes he’ll uncover enough evidence to expose the corrupt cops that are in league with the most powerful crime syndicates. He assumes the role of Yuda, a thug who is sent to jail for assaulting a politicians son. There, he is to befriend Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), one of two bosses that run most of the city, the other being Goto (Kenichi Endo), part of the Japanese family. Little does Yuda know that there is a new gangster in town, a young, hungry and sadistic gentleman named Bejo (Alex Abbad), who along with his gang of highly trained henchman are looking to overthrow the Japanese and Indonesian families and take all control for himself.
The genius of The Raid: Redemption (2011), besides the mind-blowing fight choreography, was that director Gareth Evans and company created a contained story in a contained environment to help propel their narrative and use the limited budget to their advantage.It was simple and yet vastly complex. With the sequel, they blow the doors off of all that. The moment Rama emerged from that building, the game changed, and he’s thrown head first into a vast world of corrupt cops, vicious criminals and family dynamics. And much like the first film – where the singular nature of the environment helps fuel everything from the story to the choreography to the cinematography – the huge scale of this sequel does the same.It gives us the contained sense of familiarity during the opening minutes, when Rama enters prison and is confronted by a gang of thugs in a washroom, but from that point on, it destroys any preconceived notions you may have had from the previous film. With this follow-up, Gareth Evans has clearly established himself as a director who knows how to create stylistically challenging films that still maintain a strong sense of narrative. When people aren’t being punched, kicked, stabbed or shot, the film still manages to suck you in with a compelling story, one that manages to draw heavily on the relationships between father and son. Rama, Goto, Bangun, and Bangun’s dear friend and loyal assassin Prakoso are all fathers whose actions are controlled by a moral obligation to their sons.
Yet the real stand here, much like the first film, is the blending of the astounding choreography with the dizzying camera work. Not only is the choreography leagues ahead of any film of recent memory, it still remains similar and yet remarkably different from the first film.On display are a dazzling variety of the different styles of Silat, still with its cringe-inducing effectiveness, quickly incapacitating its victims, but the level of awe inspiring mayhem is raised to new heights. Events culminate in a final assault by Rama that ends with one of the best martial arts finale’s in years between Iko and Cecep Arif Rahman, putting it on par with the Colin Chou/Donnie Yen fight from Flash Point (2007). Blend this with the stunning cinematography that somehow manages to keep the action clearly in frame with long takes that overwhelm the senses, and you clearly have a contender for the best action film of the decade. There is nothing out there like this, and I can’t really imagine there being anything like it to come.