The Raid 2: Berandal

Posted by Joel Copling on April 14, 2014

"The Raid: Redemption" caused a stir with action-movie fans upon its release in 2012 for a pretty good reason: It was blessed with a simplicity, not only of narrative (A police squad is sent by higher-ups to infiltrate an apartment building to find a ruthless crime lord, and they meet resistance from all floors along the way) but also of theme. You see, writer/director Gareth Evans approached his barebones material with an assured hand, defining lines of honor and morality (Over here are the good guys; over there are the bad ones) in basic and effective ways. There were few cutaways from the head-splitting violence of the hand-to-hand, knife-to-baton combat, and the plot itself was contained largely within the final 15 minutes, revealing two traitors on each side in the process. It was a cleanly-executed 100 minutes of brutality that proved involving almost in spite of itself, and now, here is "The Raid 2: Berandal," which, at an ungainly 150 minutes, bloats itself with so much exposition and so many double-crossings and revelations that one's head spins. There's loading the scenario, and then there's this.

If Rama (Iko Uwais), one of two survivors among that squad from the first film's conflict (and the only one before this film's ten-minute mark is met), is haunted by the situation from which he has just escaped, neither he nor Evans tells us this outright, but never mind: Rama has escaped, and now his police department wants him to help them out even more dirty cops than the sergeant that was revealed to be just hours before. As a result, he is inserted with Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of Jakarta's mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo), by going undercover in the prison in which Uco is being held. After gaining Uco's trust and getting him out of the prison cell, Uco bails him out after two years inside (One has to wonder the psychological impact on any cop, not just a particularly hardened one, to stay undercover in a prison no longer inhabited by your mark, but never mind).

Like a light bulb going out, it is once Rama leaves the prison that the film's narrative starts to go in circles more than once, and if you find complaints about the plot in a film whose main attraction is bone-breaking violence rather pointless, well, the over-stuffed nature of the monotonous plot proves more or less pointless by a bloodbath finale, too. Uco and Bangun have threatened a rival mob with a "war" over something or other, and Bejo (Alex Abbad), another player in this game, pretty much just targets everyone that Rama/Yuda has touched. This includes the employment of three assassins; one wields what seem to be bite-sized scythes, another plays baseball with his victims (in both morbid senses of the term and in the film's best gag), a deaf, half-blind girl wields two hammers, and each of them meets his or her end by his or her own weapon in creative and brutal ways.

Unfortunately, there is too little of this creativity elsewhere, not least within the narrative, which adds up to less than half of the film's length in terms of substance. Each development seems written to bring us to another combative sequence of bloodletting, which becomes tiresome even as the stakes within those violent sequences are raised to fit the increasingly brutal situations. Limbs, heads, shoulders, other appendages--nothing of the human body is safe from mutilation here, and it's immensely entertaining to watch on its own terms but far less able to withstand scrutiny when we are rolling our eyes at the hokey events that must get us to each fight.

Problems exist elsewhere, too. Rama, such an empathetic presence among the throat-smashing in the earlier film, is more or less a plot device here; Evans relegates the family for whom he is fighting to two, short sequences, and his placement within the central conflict feels half-hearted, at best. A random segment of the middle hour follows Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian, who was also in the first film, though considering his character's neck in that one was mutilated beyond repair, I can't be sure he plays the same one), and again, the narrative gives us yet another situation to follow that ends with yet another fight sequence. This issue mirrors the overall deflated impact of the film proper: a series of thrilling fight sequences with those meddling elements, such as plot, character development, etc., that are treated merely as distractions. To quote Elvis Presley, a little less conversation--finish that thought, if you wish.

Film Information

Iko Uwais (Rama/Yuda), Arifin Putra (Uco), Alex Abbad (Bejo), Tio Pakusodewo (Bangun), Oka Entara (Eka), Yayan Ruhian (Prakoso), Ken'ichi Endo (Goto), Cecip Arif Rahman (The Assassin), Very Tri Yulisman (Baseball Bat Man), Julie Estelle (Alicia/Hammer Girl), Roy Marten (Reza), Fikha Effendi (Isa), Ryuhei Matsuda (Keiichi), Donny Alamsyah (Andi), Epy Kusnandar (Topan).

Directed and written by Gareth Evans.

Rated R (bloody violence throughout, sexuality, language).

150 minutes.

Released in select cities on March 28, 2014.