SXSW 2014: The Raid 2
Review by Daniel Rester
The lights dimmed, the screen lit up, the action started…and the crowd got a bit irritated as the screening of The Raid 2 contained no subtitles on its opening night at South by Southwest 2014. The screening was put off until the next evening because of this issue. Despite this bummer, the first night was still interesting because writer-director Gareth Evans and stars Iko Uwais and Cecep Arif Rahman came on the stage and pleased the audience.
Evans had Uwais and Rahman do a practice fight on the stage, causing a huge applause from the audience. They also stuck around and talked to audience members for a while, explaining their passion for the project in one-on-one conversations. Uwais told me that the process had all been very exciting. Those moments after the failed screening made me get even more pumped for the next evening.
The lights dimmed, the screen lit up, the action started, and the subtitles worked on the second screening. And what followed was one of the most exciting action films in years, with Evans topping his own bar that he set with The Raid: Redemption (2012). Buckle up, action fans, because you are in for a wet dream of an action film.
Raid 2, also known as The Raid 2: Berandal, takes place just hours after the events of Redemption. Rama (Uwais), a police officer, is told that he must go undercover in Jakarta in order to uncover police corruption and take down the local crime syndicate. This leads him to Ucok (Arifin Putra), the son of a crime lord who wants to get deeper into his father’s business. As the story goes on, Rama is challenged by Ucok and the others as he struggles to keep his identity hidden and battle the corruption.
I will just get my complaints out of the way now, because they are pretty minimal. Raid 2 is 150 minutes long, going far beyond the length of the first film. This causes the film to become repetitive and exhausting at times, with one fight in a kitchen that goes on for an especially long time. The movie is very brutal and video game-like at times as well. It also contains a few scenes and characters that are just ridiculous (including a guy that kills people by hitting baseballs at them). But these complaints are small from me, though others may find these issues to be bigger than I do.
Evans has not been around for long as a filmmaker, but he has already carved himself a spot as an elite director in the action genre. This is because he favors scale and choreography over a high usage of CGI, though this may just be because the budgets on his films tend to be fairly small. Let’s hope not.
Evans knows how to stage and shoot fights in an exhilarating manner, pumping each scene with expertly placed camera angles and punches. His focus on the human element and the toll on life in each action scene allow them to build tension. He also puts some (bloody) creativity into a lot of the action, making for quite a few moments that stand out; this includes a car chase that is among the best put onto the silver screen in the past decade. Evans also proves to be a fine editor, as he edited the film himself; a lot of the cuts he makes are very precise. All in all, Evans and his cinematographers, stunt team, sound designers, and others deserve a lot of praise for their work here.
What is also impressive about Raid 2 is how it adds onto the characters and story developed in the first film. This story was actually the one Evans originally wanted to tell, but he ended up doing Redemption first. Raid 2 has its insane action, but it also features crime drama aspects that are grittier, deeper, and more entertaining than those of the first film. The addition of colorful supporting characters, like Ucok, Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian, who plays a different character than he did in the first film), Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle), and The Assassin (Rahman), helps as well. Plus the acting is pretty terrific by everyone as well, with Uwais especially proving that he is action star material.
Raid 2 feels like the old Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee films, but with a lot more (extreme) brutality mixed in. The film constantly had my audience cheering and saying things like “oh my gosh” and “wow.” Yes, it’s the kind of film that reassures one that the action genre still has life beyond CGI-filled blockbusters. Now I can’t wait for The Raid 3, which Evans says is on its way. I’m excited to see what he and Uwais’ careers hold after that.
Score: 3 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: A-)
MPAA Rating: R (for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality, and language).
Runtime: 2 hours and 30 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: March 28th, 2014.
WeLiveFilm Press Photos of The Raid 2:
Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans at the SXSW premiere; photo by Daniel Rester.
Iko Uwais and Cecep Arif Rahman doing a fake fight at the SXSW premiere; photo by Daniel Rester.
Iko Uwais at the SXSW premiere; photo by Daniel Rester.