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THE RAID 2… quality over the quantity of action in the original

Posted on April 18th, 2014
Posted on April 18th, 2014

by Coop Cooper

Martial arts movies seem to have fallen out of favor in America. With all of the great English-speaking karate stars aging themselves out of the business, there are no strong contenders to take on the mantle on this side of the pond other than former MMA stars with zero acting ability and very little charisma. However, Asia still has a heck of a martial arts market and Indonesia has surprisingly stepped up to take the current crown in Kung Fu (or in their case, Silat) action cinema. The phenomenal 2011 action film “The Raid: Redemption” put them on the map and now the anticipated sequel has arrived in theaters to up the ante.

After surviving the original raid on the drug kingpin’s tower in the first film, Jakarta SWAT team officer Rama (Iko Uwais) is patched up and immediately recruited to go undercover to take down the corrupt cops and mobsters who control the the city’s organized crime syndicate. This gives him the opening to track down and punish the killers who assassinated his deep undercover brother who switched sides after working with the mob for too long. Rama is sent to prison to befriend and gather information from an incarcerated psycho son of the lead mobster. This puts him in one dangerous situation after another where he must use his deadly martial arts skill of Silat in order to survive. On the outside, Rama continues his elaborate ruse to infiltrate the organization and get his revenge.

The original film was a huge international sensation and was considered one of the greatest action movies ever filmed. It would appear Welsh director Gareth Evans intended to top the first film with this sequel. Although it starts slowly, “The Raid 2” becomes one huge set piece for some of the most intricately choreographed and brutal martial arts and action scenes ever filmed. It may not top the first film in terms of sheer action volume but it does trump it through a richer, more complex story and a few jaw-dropping fight scenes that successfully top any of the sequences from the first film.

These many spectacular set-piece fight scenes include a gigantic 50 man brawl in a prison yard-turned mud pit, a machine gun massacre in an illegal pornography studio, a crazed homeless man vs. thirty thugs inside of a nightclub, a hammer fight on a moving subway car, a fight in a restaurant where the grill becomes a deadly weapon, a car chase with a Silat fight happening inside of a moving car… You get the idea.

There are also some interesting supporting characters such as the sad-sack homeless guy who is actually a terminator-like hitman, a rival gangster who likes to carry out executions during business meetings, the deaf female assassin whose preferred weapons are a pair of claw hammers and her brother who is partial to aluminum baseball bats. These characters are almost like Batman villains and those kind of touches makes the unfolding story all the more fun.

In contrast to the simple premise of the first film, this one plays out a bit more like “The Departed”, thick with intrigue and tense standoff moments before bursts of violence. This strategy is more common in Tarantino films and was probably inspired by his style. Towards the end, it does escalate into the non-stop action scenes that permeated the first film, culminating in a one-on-one knife fight in a hotel kitchen which may be the most insanely brutal martial arts fight scene ever filmed.

Additionally, the acting and the cinematography are top-notch. I hope modern American audiences will learn to appreciate these spectacular foreign action films without recognizable A-list caucasians in the lead roles. They usually do well to a niche market, but would not disappoint a casual American action fan who accidentally stumbled upon it. I’d go out of my way to see a film like “The Raid” or “The Raid 2” over an overly star-saturated spectacle like “The Expendables” any old day.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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