“Ouch! Ow! Oooh!”
Profound critical insights such as these issued from my lips during the first Raid film a couple of years ago. Similar exclamations could be heard last night during director Gareth Evans’ second round of bone-crunching, blood-spurting ultraviolence. The Raid 2 is not for the faint of heart. It is, in the totality of its 150 minute length, probably even more staggeringly brutal that it’s predecessor.
In spite of this, the film didn’t feel quite as relentless and breathless as the original, simply because this one takes place on a much bigger scale. The first film was a stripped down, claustrophobic, relatively low budget tale set entirely in one tower block with one spectacular fight after another. By contrast this one has a bigger budget and a bigger plot, although the maverick-cop-undercover-in-prison-to-get-in-with-underworld-bigwigs angle has been explored many times in many other frankly better films. There are shades of Hard Boiled, The Godfather, Reservoir Dogs and Infernal Affairs amongst others, and as such the outcome of events feels very predictable. For example, one particular subplot involving a vicious but honourable machete wielding assassin who only cares about his wife and children feels as though it’s been lifted wholesale from the world of Quentin Tarantino.
Given the presence of such contrivances, the film really stands or falls on the strength of its action, of which there is plenty. It is extremely stylish throughout, and this hyper-reality aesthetic is one of the reasons why I think complaining about the insane levels of violence is rather missing the point. However, not every set piece convinces. One early prison yard free-for-all is too muddy and confusing to follow properly. Another sequence on a train, involving a female assassin with claw hammers, gives a whole new meaning to the word ridiculous. Thankfully things improve in the final act, with a terrific vehicular chase, and a series of exceptionally brutal fights (particularly one set in a kitchen) that reminded me why the first film felt so fresh and ouch-worthy.
It only really remains for me to compliment the exceptional stunt work and choreography of the cast – particularly Iko Uwais, returning from the first film. I am sure that he and many others were harmed in the making of The Raid 2, even if no animals were.