Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The Raid 2 (2014)
Runtime: 2hrs 30mins
Catching up with another film from earlier in the year, I watched this one on Google Play, but it's also available on Amazon, and perhaps if you're lucky still hanging around in Redbox.
The first film, The Raid: Redemption, was one long action sequence. A squad of Cops in Jakarta, Indonesia head into an apartment building owned by a notorious crime lord who had been renting out the apartments to various criminals from around the city. Their objective was to climb the building floor by floor rooting out the criminals on their way to the crime lord hiding out on the top floor. Almost everyone but rookie cop Rama dies in the intense fight to the top.
If it sounds similar to Dredd, it was. However these films appeal to slightly different audiences. Dredd appealing to the sci-fi, comic book loving crowd, while The Raid: Redemption appeals more to the martial arts film lover (and yes obviously there may be some crossover to these audiences).
It was a film of spectacular fight sequences and not much else. It received a lot of positive word of mouth and was praised for those intensely brutal and extremely well choreographed fight sequences. However the general consensus was that it just didn't have much story or character development. It was enjoyable, but felt like only half of a film.
Three years later Welsh director Gareth Evans (who began by shooting a documentary about the style of Silat before turning to feature films) and his team are back with the follow up, and for the most part it's an improvement. There are still astoundingly brutal fight scenes, but they've managed to slow the pace enough to include a bit more character development and overall story this time around. Let me be clear, when I say a bit, I do just mean a bit, but it's enough to feel like a more rounded film.
It takes place about 10 minutes following the events of The Raid: Redemption. Rama is warned by his superior that the group they took down was small time compared to what's inevitably coming after him now. However, what really doesn't make much sense is the solution to the problem of the bad guys going after Rama and his family for what he did in the previous film, is to send him in undercover. If they knew they would be coming after him, wouldn't they recognize him? If they didn't recognize him wouldn't he at least hear something about how they were searching for whoever it was? And yet nothing like that happens.
It's a basic flaw in the logic of the narrative, but once you get passed that, it's an entertaining film, especially for anyone who enjoys martial arts films.
The knock on those fight sequences, and really you could say this about most action films, is the inconsistency about them. One way or another most people in this film take far more punishment than your average human could possibly withstand and still be standing, and yet other lesser characters are out of the film in just a hit or two. Yet, then again, this is why we watch films such as this.
The film is pretty simple, and yet still quite a bit more dense than the first Raid. It's no piece of award winning writing, and it's certainly not a character driven film, but few martial arts films are. In fact, as far as martial arts films go, this is one of the best I've seen in years.