The Raid 2
Gareth Evans’ The Raid took place over one day in a single locale; its narrative had an economy akin to old-school John Carpenter. For the sequel, written, edited and directed by Evans, the filmmaker’s vision expands to the infiltration of a criminal network over several years. It is a sprawling, convoluted 150 minute saga built on a story framework that’s simultaneously simple and impenetrable, wherein most of its kinetic choreography is transformed into arduous onslaughts that numb rather than thrill.
At their best, face-offs in the first film brought to mind the fluid, balletic destruction of prime John Woo, particularly Hard Boiled, and select set-pieces in the follow-up do impress. Evans displays masterful cross-cutting in one scene concerning various assassinations, and a crunching vehicular chase late in the game shows what this talented director could do with a very different kind of action film.
The balletic, hypnotising quality is largely gone, however, with the excess of gory violence too often coming across as wallowing in the wounds, as the lingering on bodily tears, burns and abrasions increases in both shot length and scene quantity. It’s additional bloat to pad out an already dull attempted epic with dubious delusions of grandeur (Moonlight Sonata plays as one hired gun perishes on a snowy street), perhaps best exemplified by a subplot in which an actor from the predecessor returns as a new character who just turns up at one point, gruesomely kills some unknown people, expresses some familial grief, and then departs in a po-faced sequence of unearned pathos.
Though The Raid 2 is supposedly about returning protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais) infiltrating the mob, the subplot given the greatest focus is that of a tried and true but often trite – and it most certainly is here – trope of Asian crime cinema: the tale of a whiny, preening underworld heir (Arifin Putra) with daddy issues. This character is one of several given a speech about limitations regarding ambition and knowing when to stop. All credit to Evans for not just making the same film again, but that recurring dialogue proves all too applicable to his own work here.