Skip to main content

I want you on my team, go undercover.

The Raid 2
(2014)

There are a fair few elements in the bloated The Raid 2 that don’t quite work. If you didn’t know director-writer-editor Gareth Evans had refitted another of his scripts with the central character from the first film, it probably wouldn’t entirely surprise you. The first The Raid was nothing if not focussed; the film was its relentless trajectory. Here, Edwards fundamentally eschews that drive. There’s still an objective in mind, but it comes by way of sprawling crime drama and, as such tales are wont to do, he becomes distracted by the broader canvas; he wants to play as much as he can in his new sandpit. It’s only when he recalls why the audience have turned up for a sequel in the first place (not for ladles of dialogue and subterfuge, let’s be honest) and gets stuck into the dazzling action that the picture more than hits its marks. It may not be a masterpiece, but The Raid 2 further illustrates Evans’ increasingly refined talent.


This kicks off directly after the events of the original as Rama (Iko Uwais) is persuaded reluctantly to go undercover in order to expose the corruption that is  rife within the police force. To do this he must infiltrate the Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo plays its head) crime family, which necessitates his being imprisoned, and make chums with Bangun’s son Uco (Arifin Putra). Rama succeeds in this, and on release it becomes clear that Uco has designs on his father’s kingdom. Uco is uncomfortable with what he sees as a lack of respect from Bangun’s partners, the Japanese Goto family, and enters into a deal with rival ganglord Bejo (Alex Abbad) to usurp his pater. Rama must maintain his cover while learning his superiors are as unreliable as his new business partners.


That’s about the size of it, and Evans handles the changing locations and situations with panache. But the mob family strife plot is a well-wrung one, and the back-and-forth politicking is not always a good fit with his capacity for excess. He has said that he has treated this more as an ensemble piece, but that doesn’t suddenly put in the league of The Godfather (or even Heat).  Rama disappears for what seems like most of the second act, which rather betrays how he has been shoehorned into the plot.


Elsewhere, there’s a superb fight sequence that extends to a snow-covered alley in which Bangun’s top assassin Prakoso, (Yayan Ruhian, one of Evans’ fight choreographers who – in a move reminiscent of Lee van Cleef in the Dollars movies – played a different character, Mad Dog, in the first film) who poses as a beggar when he isn’t on the job, is assassinated. It serves the storyline, true, since his slaying is Uco’s manoeuvre to have Bangun break the pact with the Japanese (they will be blamed), but in a movie this long (150 minutes) it feels like a distraction when Rama has been relegated to the sidelines. Evans has too much to revel in, and too much to juggle. This might be why he never gets around to de rigueur cop undercover moments such as the criminals discovering the weasel in their midst (in the end, Rama just decides to take the fight to them after he rescues another undercover cop Eka (Oko Antara) or using the hero’s family as a tool. It’s hardly the Die Hard of family portraits when the hero’s family gets one scene (one and a half including the phone call); they’d never be in any danger because the director would have to put some serious character work in to make Rama more than just the angelic husband and father.


Others have suggested The Raid 2 improves on the original by giving more substance to story and character, but I don’t think it is sufficiently superior in either respect to justify its length. So it comes down to the action, understandably, for the real thrills. From the attack in his cell, to the mud bath prison riot, to Rama fending off an onslaught by dirty cops (and I don’t mean covered in mud) the action is as entirely brutal as before but with even greater scale. Evans has the budget to perhaps overdo the crane shots now, and the extended car chase isn’t quite up to par with the mano a mano action, but once he hits the last thirty minutes what’s on screen consistently exceeds the insane fury the original. This action, as Rama goes up against a selection of kooky killers (again, Evans doesn’t seem bothered about maintaining verisimilitude) including Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) before facing off against Uco and Bejo is frenetic and breathless non-stop mayhem.


At its best The Raid 2 eclipses the original, but as a whole it’s the lesser of the two. You can’t fault Evans for thinking big. He takes the customary approach of increasing everything for the sequel, and yet he avoids the usual weakness of providing no more than a bigger budget retread. Uwais has grown in confidence in his performance as Rama, particularly as he’s called on to deliver a succession of silent sizings up of situations and communicating his dilemmas through expressions alone. Evans has already announced The Raid 3, which is expected to be as different again as The Raid was from 2 (and, taking a leaf out of The Bourne Ultimatum’s hat, it seems it is to take place a couple of hours before the end of 2, which I’m taking with a pinch of salt at the moment). The Raid 2’s a nearly-but-not-quite great movie; the sure sign that it was one would be not sitting there itching to get to the next big fight set piece while all the talky stuff is going on.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I think I’m Pablo Picasso!

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) (SPOILERS) I get the impression that, whatever it is stalwart Venom fans want from a Venom movie, this iteration isn’t it. The highlight here for me is absolutely the wacky, love-hate, buddy-movie antics of Tom Hardy and his symbiote alter. That was the best part of the original, before it locked into plot “progression” and teetered towards a climax where one CGI monster with gnarly teeth had at another CGI monster with gnarly teeth. And so it is for Venom: Let There Be Carnage . But cutting quicker to the chase.

Are you, by any chance, in a trance now, Mr Morrison?

The Doors (1991) (SPOILERS) Oliver Stone’s mammoth, mythologising paean to Jim Morrison is as much about seeing himself in the self-styled, self-destructive rebel figurehead, and I suspect it’s this lack of distance that rather quickly leads to The Doors becoming a turgid bore. It’s strange – people are , you know, films equally so – but I’d hitherto considered the epic opus patchy but worthwhile, a take that disintegrated on this viewing. The picture’s populated with all the stars it could possibly wish for, tremendous visuals (courtesy of DP Robert Richardson) and its director operating at the height of his powers, but his vision, or the incoherence thereof, is the movie’s undoing. The Doors is an indulgent, sprawling mess, with no internal glue to hold it together dramatically. “Jim gets fat and dies” isn’t really a riveting narrative through line.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Fifty medications didn’t work because I’m really a reincarnated Russian blacksmith?

Infinite (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s as if Mark Wahlberg, his lined visage increasingly resembling a perplexed potato, learned nothing from the blank ignominy of his “performances” in previous big-budget sci-fi spectacles Planet of the Apes and, er, Max Payne . And maybe include The Happening in that too ( Transformers doesn’t count, since even all-round reprobate Shia La Boeuf made no visible dent on their appeal either way). As such, pairing him with the blandest of journeyman action directors on Infinite was never going to seem like a sterling idea, particularly with a concept so far removed from of either’s wheelhouse.

I can do in two weeks what you can only wish to do in twenty years.

Wrath of Man (2021) (SPOILERS) Guy Ritchie’s stripped-down remake of Le Convoyeur (or Cash Truck , also the working title for this movie) feels like an intentional acceleration in the opposite direction to 2019’s return-to-form The Gentleman , his best movie in years. Ritchie seems to want to prove he can make a straight thriller, devoid of his characteristic winks, nods, playfulness and outright broad (read: often extremely crude) sense of humour. Even King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has its fair share of laughs. Wrath of Man is determinedly grim, though, almost Jacobean in its doom-laden trajectory, and Ritchie casts his movie accordingly, opting for more restrained performers, less likely to summon more flamboyant reflexes.

Five people make a conspiracy, right?

Snake Eyes (1998) (SPOILERS) The best De Palma movies offer a synthesis of plot and aesthetic, such that the director’s meticulously crafted shots and set pieces are underpinned by a solid foundation. That isn’t to say, however, that there isn’t a sheer pleasure to be had from the simple act of observing, from De Palma movies where there isn’t really a whole lot more than the seduction of sound, image and movement. Snake Eyes has the intention to be both scrupulously written and beautifully composed, coming after a decade when the director was – mostly – exploring his oeuvre more commercially than before, which most often meant working from others’ material. If it ultimately collapses in upon itself, then, it nevertheless delivers a ream of positives in both departments along the way.

I’ll look in Bostock’s pocket.

Doctor Who Revelation of the Daleks Lovely, lovely, lovely. I can quite see why Revelation of the Daleks doesn’t receive the same acclaim as the absurdly – absurdly, because it’s terrible – overrated Remembrance of the Daleks . It is, after all, grim, grisly and exemplifies most of the virtues for which the Saward era is commonly decried. I’d suggest it’s an all-time classic, however, one of the few times 1980s Who gets everything, or nearly everything, right. If it has a fault, besides Eric’s self-prescribed “Kill everyone” remit, it’s that it tries too much. It’s rich, layered and very funny. It has enough material and ideas to go off in about a dozen different directions, which may be why it always felt to me like it was waiting for a trilogy capper.

Madam, the chances of bagging an elephant on the Moon are remote.

First Men in the Moon (1964) (SPOILERS) Ray Harryhausen swaps fantasy for science fiction and stumbles somewhat. The problem with his adaptation of popular eugenicist HG Wells’ 1901 novel isn’t so much that it opts for a quirky storytelling approach over an overtly dramatic one, but that it’s insufficiently dedicated to pursuing that choice. Which means First Men in the Moon , despite a Nigel Kneale screenplay, rather squanders its potential. It does have Lionel Jeffries, though.

I’ve crossed the Atlantic to be reasonable.

Dodsworth (1936) (SPOILERS) Prestige Samuel Goldwyn production – signifiers being attaching a reputable director, often William Wyler, to then-popular plays or classical literature, see also Dead End , Wuthering Heights , The Little Foxes , The Best Years of Our Lives , and earning a Best Picture nomination as a matter of course – that manages to be both engrossing and irritating. Which is to say that, in terms of characterisation, Dodsworth rather shows its years, expecting a level of engagement in the relationship between Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) and his wayward, fun-loving wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton) at odds with their unsympathetic behaviour.