To anyone who has seen The Raid: Redemption (originally just titled The Raid), the follow-up has been something that has been hyped up for the past few months, mainly due to its Sundance World Premiere. Word that an epic film unfolded among the audience that could only be equated to The Godfather of action films. The film is epic, there is no question about that. After the film shows a gorgeously composed one-shot take to open the film, you know that this is going to be different than the mostly handheld film that preceded it.
The Raid 2: Bernandal picks up where the first film left off when Rama (Iko Uwais) walks out of the building. Rama is informed that the raid that they performed on the building was just the beginning of a vast criminal underground. Rama’s chief wants to try and have him go all the way to the top boss, Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). In order to do so, they see a weakness in Bangun’s son, Ucok (Arifin Putra), who is wanting to contribute more to the main operation. Rama gains Ucok’s trust in prison – mainly due to a large prison fight scene that takes place in the mud – and once Rama is released, he is hired as a grunt/protection to Ucok. It is the hope of the police that Rama will get close to Bangun and learn of the intricate operations in order to find substance to connect him to criminal activities, which the police force has been unable to do.
Director Gareth Evans puts on a hell of a show with The Raid 2. Gone is the dark and gritty cinematography from the first film. It has given way to a more stylized, colorful and warmer color palette. The set designs have been given an upgrade as well. This film screams more budget and that extra money definitely shows on screen. However, Evans seems hindered by the fact that he took on writing, directing and, most importantly, editing duties on the picture. The film is 2 hours and 30 minutes and while you will see some of the most insane stunt work and fight scenes ever filmed, the film drags when those set pieces are not shown. The Raid 2 shows its budget upgrade a bit too much and is uneven in the decision making if it wants to be serious or not. The cartoonish characters of Hammer Girl and Bat Boy, while fun, don’t really seem to fit this all encompassing crime drama that Evans wants to create. Bat Boy in particular doesn’t seem too menacing and while his aluminum bat does some damage, it gets tiresome in one scene and viewers will settle into reality when the sound of the aluminum bat cracking skulls wears thin.
Evans however does excel in some of the best camera work you will ever see with the fight scenes. Two cinematographers are credited on the film, Matt Flannery & Dimas Imam Subhono. The work performed is nothing short of amazing. Instead of the camera filming the action it becomes part of the action. The camera zips around huge fight scenes like a fly in the wall. It smashes through windows as characters flee to escape. The Raid 2 should be seen in the theater for anyone that likes action or especially dug the first film. The last 30 to 45 minutes of The Raid 2 is perfection for not just an action film, but in cinema in general. Just know that after you get off your adrenaline high, your mind will start filtering out scenes that really felt unnecessary to the film but it doesn’t mean you won’t be clamoring for The Raid 3.