Cert: 18 Runtime: 150 mins Director: Gareth Evans Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Alex Abbad, Oka Antara, Julie Estelle and Donny Alamsyah
You apologize! In their language, in our land! Where is your honour?
Gareth Evans created something so fresh a few years ago, which we call The Raid. Personally one of the best action films that I have ever seen! When I heard of a sequel being made I was rather surprised, do we really need a second? All I could imagine more blood, more martial arts and more crazy situations. After fighting his way through a gangster-infested building in ‘The Raid’, Indonesian cop Rama (Iko Uwais) barely has time to pause for breath before his next mission. With the lives of his wife and son at stake, Rama is forced by his ruthless superiors to infiltrate the criminal underworld. His task is to expose corrupt cops and politicians pulling the strings. To get started, he adopts a new identity and serves time in a filthy, violent jail so as to befriend Ucok (Arifin Putra) – the swaggering son of a crime boss.
Fans like me of the first film regard “The Raid: Redemption” as a nonstop action extravaganza. Those fans must be warned that this film does not try to recreate the same tone and pace of the first film. Although this is a sequel, it in many ways bears little resemblance to the heart-pounding original. What Gareth Evans is trying to accomplish is a larger scope ensemble piece that diminishes the screen time of our main protagonist. The pacing is deliberately slow to find nuance in moments of confrontation or other plot revelation. This also lengthens many scenes of plot development that work their way through. There are betrayals, ambushes, and many scenes of stewing tension. Many many scenes. Evans also edited this film, and this is certainly a director’s cut at 150 minutes. I would not fault much with the pacing in general for an ambitious long unfolding saga, but the audience must be prepared for the film to take it’s time in the telling of the story.
Perhaps Evans overreached in his effort to make an epic masterpiece. I felt that things were getting too drawn out in all the supporting characters subplots. It also made one yearn for another action scene to arrive quicker, as the dialogue scenes seemed to drag, especially near the end. I think if Evans let himself be a little more ruthless in condensing the drama in order to find a more energetic tone like the first film, it would feel a little more solid. Having allowed for the director’s ambitions, he certainly shows depth in staging character drama and eliciting good performances from his actors. There are many well choreographed large fight sequences that do an excellent job of moving the camera around to capture the cacophony. Some select shots venture into graphic novel territory, with large Tarantino-Esque fonts and dramatic angles. However, these shots are few and far between, instead finding mostly nervous hand-held shots supplying the bulk of the cinematography.
I also enjoyed the element of surprise as it was hard to know what to expect next as the layers of characters do their next dirty deed. I just wish Evans didn’t push things in the drama to the length of near exhaustion as everyone eventually gets their due. When I compare epic gangster films like “Goodfellas”, “The Godfather”, with all of them clocking in over 2 1/2 hours, they have better pacing than this film. So unfortunately it is hard to recommend this as an action film, but would find it engaging for someone willing to immerse themselves in a story of corruption and rival gangsters looking for betrayal and revenge. The extreme violence the first film was known for is evident here, but does not break much new ground. There is an innovative sequence with a lady wielding two sharp claw hammers, but didn’t wow me. The other moments of shock come from a bad guy getting his head blown off on screen, and perhaps another bad guy eating a baseball bat. So our protagonist seems to have superpowers as he rises to the level of your typical indestructible hero that audiences have grown accustom to in typical action films.