Friday, April 11, 2014

The Pummeling Thrill Ride That Is THE RAID 2: BERANDAL

THE RAID 2: BERANDAL (Dir. Gareth Evans, 2014)

Gareth Evan’s 2011 Indonesian hit THE RAID: REDEMPTION was a high-voltage ultra-violent martial arts masterpiece that pitted an unsanctioned S.W.A.T. team against a 15-story apartment block full of murderous mobsters. Its fast paced gory spectacle was all contained within the dark, dank, crumbling walls of the tenement building – one of the grittiest backdrops of an amped up thriller in recent memory.

In the less gritty, more colorful sequel, THE RAID 2: BERANDAL (Berandal is Indonesian for “Thug”), opening today in the Triangle, the sole survivor of the first movie’s mayhem goes undercover to infiltrate Jakarta’s biggest, baddest crime syndicates resulting in a series of savage action sequences set all over the city.

As the rookie cop turned police mole, Indonesian martial arts champion Iko Uwais returns as Rama, who’s back to wow us again with his mad fighting skills. Uwais undergoes a two-year prison stay in order to integrate himself as a foot soldier for the powerful crime boss, Nagun (Tio Pakusodewo). Our hero does this by befriending the gang boss’s only son (Arifin Putra) in the slammer, by way of saving his life in a wild, bloody, and extremely muddy prison yard rumble.

Elements recalling INFERNAL AFFAIRS (remade by Martin Scorsese as the 2005 Oscar winner THE DEPARTED), and DONNIE BRASCO form the unevenly paced plot, but it just serves as a clothesline to hang one ferociously relentless set piece after another on.

Intense choreographed fist fights amid rampant gunfire take place in a variety of locations including a warehouse, a restaurant, a fancy kitchen, a glitzy nightclub, even in moving cars (in one of the best car chases since THE FRENCH CONNECTION), carting Uwais closer to his goal of bringing down both the evil organization and the corrupt cops on the syndicate’s payroll.

Foes such as Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle, using only two hammers as her weapons), Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman, whose weapon ought to be obvious), and Yayan Ruhian, as a different brutal long-haired assassin than the one he played in THE RAID, attempt to thwart Uwais’s efforts, but I bet you can guess how they end up.

I felt more than a little beat down by the end of the film’s bloated 150-minute running time, as Evans and star/choreographer Uwais seem to have fit every single stunt they could think of within the film’s chaotic framework. Its exhausting length is the only thing that keeps it from being better than the first one, but not by much.

It’s hard to imagine how a follow-up would top it, but since it’s the second of a proposed trilogy, it’ll sure be fun to see them try. With its insanely brutal bravado, rendered in a viciously vivid visual style, the pummeling thrill ride that is THE RAID 2 kicks the ass of just about every American action movie out there. 

Indonesia: fuck yeah!

More later...

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