2011’s Indonesian breakout success The Raid was an action film of breathless purity; so single-mindedly dedicated to nutso fight choreography and a tactile rendering of physical pain that it took on the quality of a demented slapstick musical. It was the film analogue to Slayer’s Reign In Blood, and for his follow-up, director Gareth Evans has gone the more-is-more route; The Raid 2: Berandal is bloodier, longer at a numbing 148 minutes, unconfined to a single location, but most detrimentally, plottier.
Which isn’t to say The Raid 2 doesn’t deliver sporadically. The film’s plot is surprisingly hefty; cop Rama (Iko Awais), a survivor of the first film’s hellish tower raid, goes undercover to bring down corrupt politicians. Naturally it devolves into incomprehensibility, but the patches of exposition at least function as breathers (or for less sympathetic viewers, an invitation for a bathroom break) in between the jaw-dropping action scenes.
Even at the two-hour mark, a carnage-filled car chase scene involves you on a sensory level; it’s one of the best scenes of its kind in recent memory, and alone is almost worth the price of admission. Additionally, the first film’s single location and grimy interiors didn’t offer a lot of visual interest, but the scale and various locales of the sequel allow for striking compositions, from its arresting opening vista to the gangster dens, evocative of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel.
The film’s climax, however, with its endless succession of gory ‘showstoppers’, is difficult to sustain enthusiasm for, and if the sadism of the entire enterprise didn’t rankle before, it certainly will by then (to say nothing of the troubling suggestion that women are only of value if they have insane hammer-fighting abilities). Evans’ skill at making you wince remains beyond reproach, but he’s less adept at making you care – there’s a good reason Slayer never released a double-LP concept album, and he should’ve followed suit.
See The Raid 2: Berandal in cinemas from March 28