Killing in the name of fun – ★★½
It was two years ago that The Raid burst onto our screens not only breathing fresh life into a tired action format but re-awakening a love of martial arts (read Spooool.ie’s ★★★★★ review). Now director Gareth Evans and his leading man Iko Uwais are back with the sequel starting off mere hours after the conclusion of the first film.
Where the second film differs is that it has a story. This may sound strange but the plot of the first film could have been written on a small stamp. Here we have double agents, undercover cops, murky dealings and more besides. It’s very The Departed (without the Dropkick Murphys) which was a re-imagining of Infernal Affairs so The Raid 2 is really very Infernal Affairs (without the Dropkick Murphys). Rama (Iko Uwais) must go to jail to try and infiltrate the criminals who are bribing cops in an effort to combat corruption. Whilst in prison he saves the life of Ucok (Arifin Putra) who is the son of a mob boss, giving him the perfect way in to the criminal underbelly upon his release.
Working for Ucok and Andi (Donny Alamsyah) Rama gathers intel on all the illegal activities at work in the city but is unsure who he can trust – and with the constant fear of discovery, time is running out.The classic power struggle between father and son is prominent with Ucok wanting to take over the family business but Bangun his father (Tio Pakusidewo) deeming him still too immature. This forces Ucok to take a course of action that will have untold consequences.
The film is too long, clocking in at two and a half hours for an action film is far exceeding what people want or need. There is nothing original in the story, you have seen it countless times before, making it predictable and boring. So we have the action at least to take our minds off the story but again this feels stale and largely unnecessary.
In The Raid there was nothing but action and it was done and dusted in just over 90 minutes. The added story of The Raid 2 slows everything down and when there are fight scenes they feel tokenistic. There is no doubting they are expertly choreographed and executed but we’ve seen this before and there is a certain sense of box ticking instead of something new. The long motorway chase is exciting but harks back to The Matrix Reloaded. There is an attempt to give the scenes involving Bangun and Bejo (Alex Abbad) a certain type of menace with lighting and music that has clearly been lifted from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, yet it doesn’t contain an ounce of the unease.
Everybody knows a martial arts movie will contain violence but here it seems excessive. Fight scenes are repetitive and become tiresome at times skirting into torture porn territory. The weapons used are too familiar; knives, hammers and baseball bats meaning you can’t brush it off as horror or fantasy violence, there is something all too real in the telling. While Evans must be commended for instilling these feelings within us he seems to revel in the violence with no cautionary note making the scenes seem hollow and dirty. While I don’t believe there is a relationship between onscreen violence and off screen, when scenes are depicted so vividly it makes human life seem very cheap indeed.
The film will undoubtedly do well but is a let down from the excellent work carried out in the first instalment. Perhaps the third outing can redefine the genre once again.
Released across Ireland on April 11th 2014