The Raid 2
Opens Fri., April 11 at Sundance and other theaters. Rated R. 148 minutes.
When The Raid 2 bowed at Sundance earlier this year, it triggered an instant-analysis debate along a narrow spectrum. Was it the greatest action movie ever made, or merely the most violent? Considering the film’s target audience, that’s a win/win argument. Gareth Evans’ sequel to his culty 2011 The Raid: Redemption, which was set primarily within a Jakarta high-rise, considerably widens the canvas this time out. Returning hero Rama (Iko Uwais) has survived that adventure only to be tapped for an undercover operation as unlikely as it is brutal. He’s spent two years in jail earning the trust of an Indonesian gangster’s son (Arifin Putra), the better to infiltrate the gang when he gets out. The aim is to gain information about police corruption and smash the syndicate, but Evans seems less interested in the intricacies of storytelling than he is in devising one flabbergasting action sequence after another.
This he does, with utter confidence, for two and one-half hours. This is far too long by ordinary standards, but not too long if you a) have an appetite for unbridled mayhem, or b) curiosity about the spectacle of a director playing can-you-top-this with himself. On the latter point, Evans frequently succeeds, staging an awe-inspiring car chase, a massive donnybrook in a muddy prison yard, and a climactic hand-to-hand fight in a state-of-the-art kitchen that uses each utensil for maximum effect. We’d also like to introduce you to a couple of characters who lurk around the edges waiting to deliver their specialties: Hammer Girl and Baseball-Bat Man. Given the expectations raised by their billing, they do not disappoint. There’s also a fantastically cool old-school assassin (Yayan Ruhian, sharing fight-choreographer credit with Uwais) who really deserves his own spinoff vehicle.
Before that comes, Evans will undoubtedly deliver Part 3 of this series—or so the ending suggests. It’s hard to know where that movie would go, given the maximalist treatment here: The fights are breathtaking, the stunts a hoot, and a few of the most violent moments are shockingly grisly. The Raid 2 is some kind of pulp achievement, but it doesn’t really make you eager for more; except for die-hards, exhilaration could surrender to exhaustion just after this movie gets out of the kitchen.