MRR Review: "The Raid 2"

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After fighting his way out of a building filled with gangsters and madmen - a fight that left the bodies of police and gangsters alike piled in the halls - rookie Jakarta cop Rama thought it was done and he could resume a normal life. He couldn't have been more wrong. Formidable though they may have been, Rama's opponents in that fateful building were nothing more than small fish swimming in a pond much larger than he ever dreamed possible. And his triumph over the small fry has attracted the attention of the predators farther up the food chain. His family at risk, Rama has only one choice to protect his infant son and wife: He must go undercover to enter the criminal underworld himself and climb through the hierarchy of competing forces until it leads him to the corrupt politicians and police pulling the strings at the top of the heap.
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Rating: R
Length: 150 minutes
Release Date: March 28, 2014
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Genre: Action / Crime / Thriller

"The Raid 2" is a spectacular action thriller starring martial arts star Iko Uwais. Written and directed by Gareth Evans, this sequel to 2011's "The Raid" delivers intense, flawlessly choreographed fight sequences that leave even the most committed action fans gasping.

The Storyline

In "The Raid 2," Uwais reprises his role as Rama, an Indonesian SWAT officer. After battling and ultimately triumphing over bloodthirsty gangsters in a Jakarta tenement building in "The Raid," Rama is now trying to lead a normal life with his wife and infant son.

Before he can settle in, Rama is ordered to leave his family and go on an undercover assignment in a prison. In the prison, he poses as a violent offender and manages to gain the confidence of Uco, the son of a renowned crime lord. After Uco and Rama are released from prison, Rama begins working for Uco's father, Bangun. A long-standing truce between Bangun's family and a local Japanese crime family crumbles, and Rama is thrust into the middle of an epic gang war.

The Action Sequences

Overall, the movie is visually breathtaking with incredible fight scenes. In the first half of the movie, there is a mind-blowing fight sequence in the prison yard, and the second half is back-to-back action scenes. The fight choreography, which was arranged by Uwais and his co-star Yayan Ruhian, is terrifying and energizing at the same time.

As in "The Raid," the violence is extremely graphic, but the actual fighting is so intricately and beautifully orchestrated that the violence does not feel egregious. Part of what makes the fight scenes so remarkable is that they feel realistic. The viewer does not feel like they are watching stunt doubles for every action sequence.

The Cast

Uwais, the movie's star, is amazing to watch. A former Indonesian National Champion martial artist, Uwais is in constant motion during "The Raid 2." He is intense and thoroughly believable as Rama and Rama's undercover identity.

In addition to Uwais, the supporting cast is excellent. Most of the cast are martial arts professionals, and their athletic and austere ferocity makes them frighteningly realistic. The actors actually seem to be capable of performing the amazing stunts themselves, which is rare in Hollywood films that often focus more on big names rather than stunt capacity.

A few of the supporting characters are quirky and charming. For instance, there is a silent woman who fights with a pair of hammers who makes a big impact in a very short span of time. Played by Julie Estelle, the Hammer Girl maintains a strangely magnetic presence as a character who stays in the viewer's mind long after she leaves the scene.

The Director

The movie is brilliantly composed by Welsh-born writer and director Gareth Evans. Even the most intricate fight scenes are shot in a handheld style, which gives them gritty authenticity. A renowned martial arts aficionado, Evans understands precisely how to frame the scenes, including those that are quiet and tender as well as the large-scale, bloody gang battles.

Overall Scale

Although minute by Hollywood action movie standards, the movie's $4.5 million budget was considerably larger than the budget of the first movie. Fans of "The Raid" should note that this movie is much longer than its predecessor, which allows for a much more complex and nuanced storyline. Hardcore action fans may not be interested in the quieter background issues, but the fleshed-out storyline leads to a much more intelligible and satisfying plot.

By boosting the length, Evans develops the movie's characters more fully than in "The Raid." Viewers understand Rama's motivations better and are able to feel the intensity of his desire to protect his wife and son.

The expanded plot also allows Evans to move the action to a variety of locations, and not just in a single place, such as the tenement in "The Raid." The prison scenes in particular are visually stunning.

The Next Installment

"The Raid 3" is set to take up where "The Raid 2" ends. With Uwais and Evans on board for its production with an expanded budget, fans should expect the series to develop with mounting detail and complexity. The end of "The Raid 2" leaves a few loose ends that are undoubtedly addressed in the franchise's third installment.

"The Raid 2" is a stunning action thriller. Fans of the "The Raid" are sure not to be disappointed with its sequel. The fight sequences are truly staggering and qualify as true poetry in visual motion. The storyline is intricate and satisfying, but it is not overwrought. Overall, "The Raid 2" is an extremely rewarding movie for action movie enthusiasts.