The Raid 2: Berandal is the greatest action film I have ever seen, and possibly ever will see. The 2014 follow up to the first film surpasses its already spectacular predecessor. Gareth Evans, and Iko Uwais created a film where every action sequence tops the one before it. Every moment of this films erupts with intensity and ultra-violence.
The film starts up directly after the end of the first Raid. Rama (Iko Uwais) meets up with a cop named Bunawar (Cok Simbara) who is on mission to take out all the corrupt cops and officials in the city. Bunawar sends Rama to infiltrate the local mob, right as a power play for supremacy over the city starts up between the local boss, Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo), the Goto family from Japan, and newcomer Bejo (Alex Abbad) with his merry band of super-killer assassins. Rama begins to lose a grip on whose side he is really on, as trust becomes scarce, and killing is the only means to survive.
The plot for The Raid 2 was written before the first Raid, and was titled Berandal. Gareth Evans did not have the money to make it at the time, so he made The Raid. When The Raid became a big hit, he was able to get the funding for the crime epic that is The Raid 2. Evans just tied in the events from the first film to the story of an undercover cop vs. the entire underworld. The first Raid had very little story, but non-stop action; The Raid 2 works to effectively intertwine its action and story. The action is spaced out between very well shot, character/story driven scenes.
The cinematography in this film is more polished and less gritty than its predecessor. Every scene has its own color scheme and set detail. The handheld camera style from the first film is replaced with wider sweeping dollying, and panning shots. The fights scenes are no less intense though. This more professional style camera works to create beautifully staged fight sequences.
The whole film is a greater expansion of the world these characters live in. So many different locations are explored. Part of the film takes place in a prison. The prison set looks amazing. All the filth and grime and cold walls and metal bars make for a great atmosphere, and showcase an insane prison riot action sequence. Part of this prison riot scene is shot in one take as so much grizzly insanity takes place in front of the camera, with no action being similar to the next. The film moves on to explore the city where you can see sleazy porn warehouses, and exuberant night clubs (people are horribly murdered in both). The crime bosses’ fortresses all look different, especially compared to Tama’s from the first Raid. Bejo’s is this elegant palace coated neon red on the inside, and looks like a grimy warehouse on the outside. Bangun’s place of business looks like a basic office building with something sinister underneath. So much effort is put into the sets, action and costumes of this film, that I am surprised that the budget was only $4.5 million. The budget is small compared to a recent US action film like The Expendables 3, which cost $90 Million.
There are so many memorable characters that appear in the second film. The mob-bosses, while not as memorable as Tama, are all very different and fleshed out. Bangun is a likeable, wise mob boss. He knows his follies, and seems to be running things very smoothly as he declines into retirement. His actions don’t make him a good person (far from it), but I can understand where he’s coming from. Goto doesn’t do much and is barely focused on, but the actor that plays him, Ken’ichi Endô, looks like a Yakuza. I think Gareth Evans might have just hired a Yakuza boss to be in his movie. Bejo is the sly, manipulative bastard and primary antagonist. Just like his hideout, he is broken and small on the outside, but full of false elegance and vicious cruelty on the inside. The real stars are Bejo’s assassins. The deadly duo of Hammer Girl, and Baseball Bat man are the Boba Fett of the movie. They are a silent, murderous brother-sister duo that treat murder like their childhood playtime. Hammer Girl is my favorite character in this film, she is played by the voluptuous Julie Estelle (who can bash my head in with a hammer any day). The other assassin is this mean looking curved knife wielding guy who is the toughest enemy Rama has ever faced (even tougher than Mad Dog).
Rama also goes through some changes. He is much angrier and confused in this film. The first part of The Raid 2 involves Rama going through some drastic changes, as the world of the ideal rookie he once was comes crashing down around him. Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the first film and one of the chief fight choreographers for the series, returns as Bangun’s hitman Parkoso. A portion of this film is used to let the viewer get to know Parkoso, making him a sympathetic and tragic character. He is an unkempt machete wielding hit man who is just trying to support his estranged family. The breakout star of The Raid 2 is Uco, played by Arifin Putra. He is Bangun’s son and gets almost as much screen time as Rama. This film is as much his story as it is Rama’s, as we follow Uco’s rise and fall from power. It is clear that he was raised to think like Frank Underwood from House of Cards, but has too much rage built up inside him to play it as cool as Kevin Spacey. Like Kevin Spacey though, Arifin Putra steals every scene he is in. Two scenes Uco steals in particular are: his drunken threat to a hooker in a karaoke bar, and when he slits the throats of the men who tried to kill him while he was in prison, while also retaining a casual business conversation with Bejo. This film is full of tragic characters, and Uco reigns at number one.
The film takes all these classic shakespearian mob archetypes and throws them all into one great war. Every character gets their chance to shine, even Rama’s new bearded mentor, Eka, who looks similar to Jaka from the first film. The story is well balanced with the action sequences furthering the story instead of taking the viewer out of it. The amazing prison riot sequence is also the moment when Rama gains Uco’s trust. The porn factory fight helps Rama gain the trust of Bangun. Parkoso’s last stand is a sad end to a very likeable character, and the start of all out war between the three crime lords. The film has a great “taking out the trash sequence,” which is the murder montage seen in the majority of mobster movies. This one contains pick axes to the skull, face melting, a stunning Hammer Girl vs. knife wielding guys on a train fight, and a Baseball Bat Man warehouse fight. All these fights have purpose. The entire climax of the film is action sequence after action sequence, working as dominoes tumbling down due to a choice made by Uco.
The action sequences in this film are the greatest action sequences I have encountered. Every single one of them tops the one before it. There are gunfights, car chases, prison riots, hand to hand, weapon on weapon, car vs. people, grill vs. face, the list goes on. There is also very little CGI; most of the effects/fights are legit stunt work and practical thinking. Aside from some blood and bullet effects, the rest is straight out of the old school. The finale of this movie is Rama moving through Bejo’s hideout facing greater and greater odds. The finale left me lacking of breath, but full of bloodlust. It starts with Rama taking out a bunch of goons with a car and his bare hands. Rama then takes on Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, which is my favorite fight in the film. It finally comes to a close with a fight between Rama and the Knife Assassin. This fight has already started to pop on many people’s lists as one of the greatest fight scenes of all time. The action in this film is worth the price alone, which makes me even happier that there is such an engaging crime story to go along with it.
The film has an open ending, setting things up for The Raid 3. I have no idea how Gareth Evans is going to top this film. The only way I think he could pull it off is by paying people to actually fight each other to the death and then film it. This film will hit you harder than assault and battery, but it’s much more pleasurable.
Favorite Scene: During the insane car chase, Eka holds an assailant motor-cycler against his car, and shoots him twenty times point blank in the face with an automatic pistol! The motor-cycler’s face is peeled away in a hail of bullets and then promptly run over. I became ecstatic the moment I saw that, including the aftermath when the dead motor cycler careens into oncoming traffic.
All the trailers for this film are well edited and exciting as all hell. They give the right amount of story, and the right amount of action to get people interested. Watch all three:
Written by Tyler Ducheneaux
Images from The Raid 2: Berandal