The Raid 2: Berandal
Is it possible for a sequel to be better in almost every way than its predecessor yet still end up not being as likable? In the case of The Raid 2 the answer is nearly yes.
The Raid: Redemption was a surprising success back in 2011. It introduced audiences around the world to Indonesian cinema, while also sparking a new interest in the martial arts sub-genre. The unrelenting violence of the original film was its trademark style, and audiences enjoyed the absurd stunts and gritty sequences of hand-to-hand combat. The plot was simple and straightforward, which meant the audience didn’t have to focus as much on the subtitles or dubbed dialogue. Furthermore, the film was able to pull of some interesting twists despite the dialogue handicap. It also featured a memorable tense soundtrack and the visual texture of the film was perfect for the material.
The sequel takes all of the characteristics from the original film and turns them up a notch. Therefore, everything that we loved about the first film is present in the sequel, but more so. There’s more action, more violence, more henchmen, more twists, and more fabulous stunts. The visuals are better, more artistic, and the music is just as powerful. The film makers didn’t stop there with the improvements. They built on the simplistic story of the original by using it as a starting point for an entire epic crime saga. There are now more characters, more complexities, and more dialogue. The result is a much more complete film, but also one that is more complicated, convoluted, and requires more patience. As such, The Raid 2 loses the hectic and unrestrained feel that made the original so appealing, even though it becomes a more sophisticated viewing experience.
Entertainment Factor: Those that loved the martial arts action and energetic stunts of the original film will not be disappointed with this sequel. There is plenty to keep you entertained in that regard even if there is also more dialogue and set-up in between these sequences. Because the plot is less one dimensional than in the first film the action is a more free flowing and less ground out affair. With a larger scope and more locales, this film also has a chance to be very artistic, which helps to keep the audience engaged despite the film’s lengthy run time and more frequent actionless scenes. Good (4.5/5)
Script/Writing: The story starts off by killing two of the main characters who survived the first film. In doing so, it sets up a “revenge” plot but also effectively reboots everything. The protagonist is not the hero anymore, he must again work his way up to reach his final goal. In this regard, the film plays homage to the original, but nearly everything else regarding the plot is different. This is a more complicated, and in-depth story. A large number of new characters are introduced and they move around like chess pieces in order to set up the final sequence. The additional characters add depth to the film, but also bog it down at some points because there is so much back story that the film has to trudge through. As a result, the film isn’t as immediately exciting to watch as the first one, taking its time to build up to the action sequences. Once it gets to those points, anyone familiar with the first film will feel right at home. Okay (3.0/5)
Acting: Iko Uwais returns as the protagonist, Rama, and he is a very formidable one at that. Iko Uwais has the charisma, focus, and brutality to become the next Jet Li. Like in the original film, it is Iko’s martial arts skills and abilities that are the focus of the film, and he doesn’t disappoint. Even the increased drama in this sequel doesn’t feel like much of a challenge to Iko. The rest of the cast may not be known to American audiences but they really show off and make for some very interesting and memorable characters. While none of them have the same presence as Iko, they become suitable enemies and allies. In both the action sequences and the dialogue sequences, the acting in this film is far better than in the first one. Good (4/5)
Direction: Gareth Evans returns as director and gives the film a familiar feel. With a larger scope to cover, Evans has a larger budget to work with, and as a result the film doesn’t feel as constrained as the first one did. That means that there is a lot more variation and Evans can be more creative with the camera. The action sequences feel more fluid and dynamic than they did in the first film because of this new freedom. Evans does a great job to give the film a more sophisticated, artistic feel that is consistent with the crime-drama plot. While Evans does a good job overall, the film does have some inconsistencies. Sometimes you feel like Evans is trying too hard to make a particular shot look cool, and as a result it feels over-stylized and out of place with the setting. Okay (3.5/5)
Production: The highlight of this film, like its predecessor, are the brutal fight scenes. The Raid 2 has plenty of very memorable ones. It also has some more dynamic action sequences, including one of the best car chase scenes I’ve seen in a long time. There is simply a lot of originality and ingenuity used in this film to make it exciting and engaging to watch. The cinematography of the film is interesting, using the same dark tones as the first film but adding in more color. The soundtrack of the film is as impactful as in the original. Most of all, I’m happy that The Raid 2 doesn’t just try and repeat what made the first film so successful. It takes that formula and uses it as a basis to build upon. With a larger budget, the film makers applied their creativity on a larger scale and it makes for a more rounded final product. However, by pushing the film to the next level it does lose the unique charm and simplicity of the original. It flirts with becoming yet another overblown action film, but thankfully keeps its focus, and doesn’t stray too far from what everyone loved about the first film. Good (4.5/5)
Check out our review of the original film here: Rated: The Raid: Redemption (2011)
What's Bad: Story gets off topic at times, sometimes too obvious in its intentions, long, not as immediately enticing as the original.