Friday, 11 April 2014

The Raid 2 (SP)

 “It’s a question of ambition, really” are the first words spoken in The Raid 2: Berandal, and, as a statement of intent, applies as much to the film itself as it does to the characters in it. Whereas the exhilarating first film (The Raid: Redemption) was held within the confines of a thin plot, a hundred minute running time and a single apartment block, its sequel aspires to be far grander in scale.

Has it reached too far? The extra hours running time allows for much more plot, and director Gareth Evans has weaved together a lengthy crime saga around which he constructs his action set-pieces. The hero Rama (Iko Uwais), having defeated the occupants of the tower block in the first film, is convinced to go undercover in the criminal underworld of Jakarta, where he bears witness to the brutal violence, ruthless double-crossing and  – that word again – reckless ambition of the gangsters who populate the city.

Its story far from attains the kind of thematic richness and pathos of its obvious major influence The Godfather, but is compelling nonetheless, with tense encounters  and sneering antagonists aplenty. 

What makes the film an instant classic of the martial arts genre is its extraordinary action set-pieces.  Crucially, Evans never allows ambition to cloud the fact that it was the brilliant choreography and inventive cinematography that made the original such a success, and the plot in Berandal still largely functions as a means to the end of yet another thrillingly executed fight scene. 

Anyone who hasn’t seen the original (and who can stomach 18-rated violence) will be blown away by the film’s kinetic, bloody, ultra-violent, ultra-stylised aesthetic, while fans of the first film will be ecstatic to learn that Evans still has plenty of fresh ideas. Highlights include a mud-soaked prison riot, a pair of cartoony villains called Baseball Bat Man and Hammer Girl, and possibly the best car chase since The French Connection

Some scenes of exposition and character development can drag on a little, and there’s nothing that carries the dramatic weight of, say, a horse’s head found under the bed covers. But the action scenes as well as the ritualistic moments that immediately precede outbreaks of violence – are like nothing else you’ll find on the big screen, and makes The Raid 2: Berandal essential viewing for genre enthusiasts.


No comments:

Post a Comment