FEARNET Movie Review: 'The Raid 2: Berandal' [SXSW 2014]


My affections for Gareth Evans' The Raid (aka The Raid: Redemption for no logical reason) are not only well-documented but also rather florid. Here's my review of the film, for example, or you can just hang around my Twitter feed and enjoy my rapturous responses when another movie geek asks my opinion of the film. The short version: it's one of the best action films ever made. I'm sure there are some fantastic action movies I haven't seen (including some martial arts classics) but I still feel confident in stating that "The Raid is one of the best action films ever made."

And holy freaking shit is The Raid 2: Berandal more of the same, and then some. You can decide for yourself if it's better (it probably is) but Raid 2 is bigger, longer, angrier, crazier, and infinitely more plot-driven than Raid 1 is, but really they're just slices from the same cake. If you thought the normal-sized slice was great, just wait until you experience this mega-sized super-slice of virtually non-stop action mayhem lunacy. (How did I get on a "cake" analogy with a film like this? Sorry.)
Like many great sequels, The Raid 2 retains what we loved about its predecessor while expanding the scope in all sorts of interesting ways. (For example: the intense spaceship claustrophobia of Alien compared to the much wider playing field offered in Aliens.) Much of The Raid 2 feels like a half-dozen "cops vs. gangsters" tropes that were old-hat back in 1949, but writer / director / editor Gareth Evans is not chasing any sort of unique narrative here. He's giving our virtually unstoppable hero, Rama (Iko Uwais), a lot of fun, basic, action material.
Rama has to go undercover in prison to befriend the son of a vicious crime boss and... see? Already it sounds like a film noir or 1970s-style cop movie! If you want the practically non-stop action of The Raid, you'll probably have to wait for The Raid 2's blu-ray so you can fast forward past the plot stuff, but having this Indonesian action hero run through a series of familiar but entertaining plot machinations gives the sequel a lot of fun stuff to do in between its myriad (and epic) action sequences. 
Suffice to say that there are numerous crime bosses, tons of anonymous henchmen who get beat to holy hell, and (at least) three villainous sidekicks who would feel right at home in any Marvel movie. (One of them uses an aluminum bat as his weapon of choice; another is a gorgeous assassin who loves her hammers.) The plot threads in The Raid 2 are numerous but never sloppy or confused, which makes the action stuff work a whole lot better.
And holy crap does this film have some action sequences worth rewinding, rewatching, and screaming "oooh!" at. They're that good. Hordes of sluggers being dispatched by our hero; a fluid and masterful car chase that offers several dazzling sights; those evil sidekicks mowing down their enemies with joyous abandon; a prison yard free-for-all you won't believe; a half-dozen others I don't want to mention, and a one-on-one "big finale" in a kitchen that may rank among the best of its kind. Ever. (We can wait a few years to decide for sure. Rest assured it's almost exhausting to watch.)
One hates to employ such a pedantic description, but The Raid 2 is, quite simply, "bigger, faster, louder, stronger, and more," but in all the best ways. It's a huge, sprawling, dark, funny action-fest that's got strong fists, the soul of a horror film, a strange sense of heart and nobility, and the gruesome enthusiasm of the best Road Runner cartoons. Every filmmaker should treat their favorite genre like Gareth Evans treats his.