The ‘Foreign Lens’ is a column meant to represent international films and directors with distinct voices, showcasing their part of the world.
When I think of April, I think of Spring. When I think of Spring, I think of springing into action to do things that I’ve held off on completing. One of those items is talking about one of my favorite martial arts movies. There are so many to choose from. However, there is one film I consistently go back to from Indonesia — The Raid 2. I know what you’re thinking. Why in the world wouldn’t you choose the first film, The Raid: Redemption? It’s much more claustrophobic, easier to explain, and has fewer characters to care about. As informative as it may be to examine that first entry in the series, I wanted to look at its more involved sequel. The Raid 2 continues to tell the story of Rama, played by Iko Uwais. Following the first film’s events, Rama is sent on an undercover mission to protect a mobster and find out information to expose his previous commanding officer Reza’s corrupt dealings with the local Bangun and Japanese Goto crime syndicates.
This is the best martial arts movie of all time because the story is entirely in sync with the choreography of the fights. With each contest, the brutality ramps up, and the undercover job gets more complicated and challenging to navigate. The character I particularly enjoyed is Uco (Arifin Putra), son of the Bangun mob boss. I like him because he has the patience of a 12-year-old. The only way to stay on his good side is to agree with everything he says. While this character is mainly in existence for story purposes, his petulant actions lead to some of the best action scenes in the movie.
The two other biggest highlights are the brother and sister assassin team, Hammer Girl and Baseball Batman. I have to praise director Gareth Evans for writing a character that happened to be blind and fearless. It’s easy to say that I find those two characters most appealing because they have this great synergy. Watching these two hitmen follow through with their assignments is bone-chilling. What makes all these characters so great is knowing how much is at risk for everyone involved. As the investigation gets more intense, your concern for every character rises exponentially.
None of that excellent tension would occur were it not for the work by Evans and the teams of filmmakers he has putting these fights together. He and his crew are masters at the movement of the camera. Such great camera work does not come only from fight scenes but also in the more investigative sections of the movie. Evans also works very hard to give the audience something not often seen in martial arts films: the unbroken take. In addition to his work on the unbroken take that occurs in the movie, Evans knows how to do an epic car chase scene. The Bourne series could learn a thing or two from Gareth Evans’s stunt team.
While this film doesn’t necessarily spotlight Indonesian culture or values, it highlights the unbelievable amount of skill of the performers who dedicate their bodies and minds to martial arts and tell authentic stories within that region regardless of whether crime is involved. This is why The Raid 2 is my favorite martial arts film put to celluloid.