Whether we want it or not, after the success of 2011’s The Raid: Redemption, a sequel was inevitable. But part of the beauty of the original is its simple story, and stunning fight sequences that are both horrific in their brutality and balletic in their choreography. As our hero Rama makes his way up the building, flight after flight, everything intensifies along with the plot. It is all oddly poetic in a way. The Raid 2, is the movie director Gareth Evans wanted to make originally, and it shows, with a more complicated plot, cast of characters, and elaborate fight sequences that straddle the line between just enough, and too much.
The film picks up a short time after Redemption, with Rama (Iko Uwais) now an uncover operative whose mission it is to bring down the Jakarta crime syndicate while simultaneously weeding out the corruption in his own police force. His undercover mission begins with a stint in jail, where he gets close to and helps Ucok (Arifin Putra), the son of one of the biggest gangsters in the city, and head of one of the major crime families. Upon his release, Rama stays close to Ucok, and begins to realize that his ambition, temper, and resentment of his father has lead him down a dangerous road.
This is the main plot thread running through the film, but there are other groups (and individuals) all maneuvering for power that Rama must navigate, and sometimes, fight. As graphic as Redemption was, I never felt forced out of the movie experience because of the violence. It was “necessary,” and each segment flowed and supported Rama’s main objective. The fight sequences in The Raid 2 are very vignette heavy, with each sequence seeming to check off a box on a long, bloody list. There’s the prison yard brawl (although it makes good use of wet mud), a bloody encounter in a snow covered alleyway, a subway car melee, and of course a rather insane and extremely difficult to watch car chase that features too many tires over human bodies. I’m not one to shrink away from movie violence, but too many times I found myself unable to suspend by disbelief at what was going on.
The final sequence of fights between Rama and victory are what sealed the deal for me, and made me wish I saw more of it throughout the 150 minute runtime. There’s a really nice old-school fight in a kitchen, a three-way fight in a red mirrored hallway featuring Rama and two new assassins, a dude with a penchant for hitting baseballs at people’s heads and his deaf female companion who’s handy with ripping apart flesh with two hammers. The last standoff that results in a few people’s demises and the stabilization (at least for now) between the various groups, is also satisfying, as we see Rama beaten but victorious for the moment, and stating with defiance, “I’m done.” Well, we’ll see.
I wanted to like this movie more, and while there are plenty of entertaining bits and self-aware flourishes of humor, it wasn’t quite enough to overcome the problems I had with it. It’s hard to deny the appeal of Iko Uwais as Rama though, and while there is a closing of a door in his last words, there’s still a few more fights left in him.
The Raid 2 opens today in Philly area theaters.