Two years ago, an Indonesian action film The Raid: Redemption blew my mind with 101 minutes of incredible fighting framed with a simple plot. A police raid of an apartment complex goes terribly wrong, and a few good cops need to fight their way out, taking out highly-trained criminals and crooked cops along the way. The Raid 2: Berandal takes everything from The Raid: Redemption and makes it bigger, including its running time which clocks in at 150 minutes. Does the raw, gritty power of the original film still work in a 2½ hour film, or did writer/director Gareth Evans overextend his reach?
The Raid 2: Berandal picks up right where the previous film left off. Rama (Iko Uwais) has a box full of tapes that implicate elected officials and high-level police officers. He soon finds out that the evidence isn’t enough. In order to bring down the corrupt system, avenge his brother, and protect his wife and infant son, he will have to go deep undercover. First, he will spend two years in prison and gain the trust of fellow inmate Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of mob kingpin Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). When he gets out of prison, he will go to work for Bangun and work his way into his trusted inner circle, all the while reporting back on what he finds out. Unfortunately, all of the plans fall apart when an ambitious gangster Bejo (Alex Abbad) convinces Uco to betray his father and help him stir up all-out war between Bangun and the city’s other kingpin Goto (Kenichi Endo).
There is a lot of plot going on in The Raid 2: Berandal. The world of The Raid: Redemption was very tight and self-contained within the building complex, but Berandal opens the doors to the city of Jakarta. By necessity, the movie must be bigger in its scope, but in the story, it goes a little too far. Instead of one mob boss ruling the city, there are two mob bosses plus another up-and-comer to pit them against each other. There is the storyline of Ucok wanting to step up and take more responsibility in the family business, plus Rama trying to keep his family safe and Bangun’s hired assassin Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian, returning from Redemption) trying to reconcile with his wife and see his child. It is an awful lot to keep track of, and Berandal doesn’t quite handle all of it. The scene setting up Uco and Rama’s relationship once Rama got out of prison dragged a little too long, and a few scenes felt a bit unnecessary. It is already clear that Uco is a bad guy, so I didn’t need to see him ripping throats open with a box cutter. The physicality of the fights impressed me in Redemption, not the gore, and the scene was meant to shock the audience, not awe them.
Fortunately, the filmmakers also made a point to step up the fights in Berandal and deliver some of the most stunning action scenes I have seen in years. From the opening prison riot to the car chase through Jakarta and the final fight through Bejo’s hide-out, everything is bigger, more intense, and more creative in its execution. The stunt teams and fighters did an absolutely brilliant job and yanked me back into the movie, never letting up and never giving me a chance to breathe much less step out for popcorn. Two of the new assassins introduced in Berandal, credited only as Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, also demand to be mentioned, seemingly walking in from a Quentin Tarantino movie filming next door. Together, I predict they will be the loving subjects of lots and lots of fan art. If they were in more of the first half of Berandal, they might have stolen the whole movie.
The Raid 2: Berandal is a bigger, broader, and completely ballsy sequel to The Raid: Redemption. I have a few nitpicks about the story and the running time, but overall, I have to hand it to Gareth Evans. He upped the ante and gave me everything I wanted and more, even if I could have done with a little less “more.”
The DVD release comes with a director's commentary, the making-of featurette "The Next Chapter: Shooting a Sequel," and a Q&A with Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais, and Joe Trapanese. It is worth purchasing the DVD just for the featurette which shows how the director and stunt coordinators pulled off the film's more elaborate stunts, including the car chase sequence.
"The Raid 2: Berandal" is on sale July 8, 2014 and is rated R. Action, Crime, Martial-Arts. Written and directed by Gareth Evans. Starring Alex Abbad, Arifin Putra, Iko Uwais, Kenichi Endo, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusodewo.