Review: THE RAID 2: BERANDAL (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Review: THE RAID 2: BERANDAL (2014)

Blessed with knockout action sequences and engrossing gangster drama, THE RAID 2: BERANDAL is flawed but more ambitiously-made epic sequel.

When Gareth Evans' highly-anticipated sequel, THE RAID 2: BERANDAL was first premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on late January, the reactions from those who had seen it were overwhelmingly positive. As an action-movie fan myself, I was very eager for the release of THE RAID 2: BERANDAL, which supposed to reach our Malaysian cinemas on March 27. But I was shocked when I learned the sequel was banned at the last minute, and later revealed that the reason for the ban was due to excessive violence. It's really baffling to me that the sequel was being slapped with a ban, whereas the first movie managed to make it into our local cinemas in 2012. It was really a waste not to show here, because THE RAID 2: BERANDAL is a great action movie that truly lives up to its massive hype.

After the brutal events of the first movie, the sequel sees rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) agrees to go undercover for the head of the anti-corruption task force, Bunawar (Cok Simbara). His first mission is to get himself imprisoned and work his way up to gain respect and trust of fellow prisoner Uco (Arifin Putra), son of notorious crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo). Two years later, Rama is released out of prison and quickly earns his place to work for Bangun's criminal organization and becomes Uco's right-hand man. Complication ensues when the crippled, up-and-coming crime lord Bejo (Alex Abbad) determines to take over Bangun. And his best bet is to lure Uco so they can work together as business partners, especially since Uco himself is getting tired of playing second fiddle within his father's organization.
From the first image of a shallow grave in the open field to the close-up finale of a bloodied Rama standing at the garage, writer-director Gareth Evans has certainly stepped up his game by expanding the scope and ambition of the first movie's small-scale setting. The result is simply astonishing, as Evans successfully structured his sequel into a sweeping crime drama that it's almost like watching a gangster movie directed by Martin Scorsese.

Likewise, the action is top notch. Although the action is noticeably less claustrophobic than the one shown in the first movie, Evans and his cinematographers -- Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono -- ensures that there is never a dull moment during the insanely-choreographed fight sequences throughout the movie. Not surprisingly, the movie's trademark handheld camerawork, as well as the impressive editing by Evans and Andi Novianto, packs a lot of punch. Evans' direction is vivid as usual, while his meticulous eyes for choosing the right locations (such as the fight sequence in the muddy prison yard or the one set in the brightly-lit restaurant kitchen) often made the fight sequences all the more visually engaging experience to watch for.

And as for the insanely-choreographed fight sequences that I have mentioned earlier, the sequel is amazingly brutal and bloody that the level of hardcore violence is far more disturbing than most gory horror pictures showed nowadays. It's understandable that some viewers might complain that the violence is extremely gratuitous, but it's also hard to deny that Evans has his unique way of representing cinematic beauty and style within all the feverish display of blood and gore.

Despite clocking at 150 minutes (by comparison, the first movie only ran at a tight 101 minutes), Evans proves that he's not only an expert in directing action sequences but also a master storyteller who actually capable of serving up meticulously detailed screenplay as well. Unlike the first movie's skimpy storyline, Evans takes his time wisely to develop and elaborate his story without making it a chore to sit through. So even during a long stretch of time without a glimpse of the action sequence, Evans manages to sustain the same level of tension with his effective characters-driven storytelling method. And thanks to Evans' carefully-constructed pace, the movie hardly feels overlong at all.

The cast is also a notable improvement over the first movie, with Iko Uwais once again delivers an engaging presence as the lead action star, who is particularly impressive with his dazzling martial arts skill. Arifin Putra is charismatic as hotheaded and impatient Uco, while Tio Pakusadewo gives a solid performance as the level-headed crime boss Bangun. Alex Abbad's slick performance is worthwhile as Bejo while small roles like Yayan Ruhian (who appeared in the first movie as Mad Dog, but carries an altogether different role here), Cecep Arif Rahman as the karambit-wielding Assassin, Julie Estelle as the Hammer Girl and Very Tri Yulisman as Baseball Bat Man, have their equal share of moments as well. Julie Estelle, who is mostly known for Indonesian horror movies such as KUNTINALAK (2006) and MACABRE (2009), particularly impressed me with her level of commitment to play such a convincing hammer-wielding assassin, especially given the fact that she has no martial arts background prior to this movie.

For die-hard action fans, this movie is a dream comes true and here goes: the massive brawl in the muddy prison yard; the introduction of Hammer Girl dispatches a group of gangsters with a pair of claw hammers inside the subway train; the introduction of Baseball Bat Man killing a number of bodyguards with his baseball bat outside the building; the exhilarating car chase sequence through the streets of Jakarta (especially where Rama fights against the four gangsters in the backseat of a car); the three-way fight scene between Rama, Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man in the corridor; and the brutal one-on-one fight scene between Rama and The Assassin inside the restaurant kitchen.

If there are flaws in this movie, I would say the ill-fated fight scene involving Bangun's hitman, Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian) which ends up at a snow-covered alley. I understand that the particular scene is beautifully executed, but Evans' over-the-top decision to include snow in Jakarta is way too much for me. Another minor gripe is the way Evans placing Iko Uwais' role as a second fiddle to make way for other principal characters to develop further. It's not that Uwais didn't act well in the movie, but it will be more appreciated if Evans placed his role as equally important as the other principal characters, rather than relegated him as a character waiting his turn to showcase his martial arts skill.


While the movie is definitely not for the squeamish, THE RAID 2: BERANDAL is a must-see for all action fans.

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