April 14, 2014

Movie Review: The Raid 2

Two years ago The Raid: Redemption popped onto my radar seemingly out of nowhere. The movie was light on plot and heavy on the action. It was a combination that worked extraordinarily well. Sometimes. A tag line that sums up the movie is a good thing. In this case it told is: "1 Ruthless Crime Lord, 20 Elite Cops, 30 Floors of Chaos." That is all you need. It was essentially one big action scene, and it did not disappoint. Now, we are faced with The Raid 2. Is it possible for this to live up to the original? Can we be fortunate enough to not see a rehash of what we have already seen? The answer is an emphatic yes!

The Raid 2 has arrived in theaters and it has proven to be a mind shattering experience. It is a movie that takes the groundwork of the first film and just takes it in an utterly epic direction. There are more characters, more bad guys, more thrills, more fights, more drama, more everything. The masterful thing about it is that it takes a familiar framework and drops in their own drama and fights making this mutant action/crime thriller mash that is instantly recognizable yet endlessly entertaining.

The movie picks up mere hours following the events of Redemption. Rama (Iko Uwais) thinks he can get back to his wife and baby, restart his life having done his duty. As we all know, things never go quite as planned. Rama is immediately pressed back into service, made to go undercover inside the criminal organization and root out dirty cops. All this in exchange for his family's protection. The thing he had not thought about was retribution for what went down in that apartment building. So, off he goes, undercover. It proves to be an assignment that will forever change his life.

It is true that the story told in The Raid 2 is not the most original. Still, it is executed in a way that makes its originality moot. It is told realistically, convincingly and is punctuated by some of the most violent and insanely brutal fights I have seen in a long time. There is a rather operatic flow to the movie. It takes its time to tell its story, it gives us characters, it gives us depth, it gives us brutality. It gives us a crime epic. It gives us deception, double crosses, surprising new enemies, surprising new friends, and a coats it with a layer of grime, letting it sink in to wonderful effect.

Our hero, Rama, is no longer the rookie cop fighting for his life in an apartment. Here he is given new life as this undercover agent, performing a job that sees him put into prison where he is reborn, darker and more determined than before. I give a lot of credit to Iko Uwais for his performance. His fighting skills are unquestionable, the surprise is his acting. No, it is not great by any means, but it is convincing and has a level of emotional depth that I was not expecting. This character is navigating uncharted waters, learning as he goes, life and death literally hanging in the balance.

Writer/director Gareth Evans has stepped up his game and crafted an insane movie. As I talk about it, I found it difficult to not feed the hype machine, that more often than not backfires. Still, this creation is the real deal. It is one of the best action films I have seen in some time. However, it is also a fantastic crime story. Clocking in at two and a half hours, you may think it is excessive, but it isn't. It has great pacing, the fights are not there to just have a fight, they all serve a purpose and there is great variety to them. The cinematography and editing are fantastic, there are a lot of long takes and it is cut in a way that lets you see the action.

I am really not sure where else to go with this. The Raid 2 is one of those movies that sat with me long after the credits rolled. The fights replayed themselves in my head. It all kind of sits with you, the cumulative effect is pretty awesome. If you like action, there is no excuse not to see this movie.

Highly Recommended.

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