By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The Raid 2: Berandal certainly owes a great debt to North American films like Die Hard, The Godfather and Kill Bill. They created a standard for how to make a gangland movie as violent as hell, and with censorship standards different in other countries, some films from Korea (like I Saw the Devil) can easily show just how man’s inhumanity to man can easily be inflicted on-screen. In the world of Indonesia, life is based on survival of the fittest. This gangland tale is loosely based on the idiom that says, “There is no honour amongst thieves.”
Rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is asked to go undercover in order to find out how far the mob’s influence has reached into his own police force in the city of Jakarta. To go deep will not be an easy task and if he gets discovered, it will put his family at risk.
First he must be made to look like another troublemaker and be tossed into prison. Once in, he has to befriend the son of one of these kingpins, Ucok (Arifin Putra). In a prison riot, Rama saves this miscreant from death and Ucok’s father, Bangun (Tio Pakusdewo), owes a debt to Rama and makes him his son’s new bodyguard.
But when Ucok has his own agenda, Rama who is now known as Yuda has trouble keeping up and putting up with him. He has to untangle the spider’s web being weaved by Ucok. Viewers may have the same problems in keeping up with the plot too. Not every viewer will understand all these side-plots or backstabbing going on.
The fights that go on certainly shows that there’s no need for guns. The fist is far more deadlier and the brutality that gets shown looks very painful. Cinematographer Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono composed their shots very well to make every bone crunching moment count. There are moments where it is hard to tell what is real from fake with prosthetics being broken. A few bruises were no doubt real, thus making film editors Gareth Evans and Andi Novianto’s work easier to handle. They kept the number of cuts short and let the camera track every painful moment on-screen and off.
Any normal human would no doubt be dead if they had their joints slammed super hard. In this movie, at least half the people who end up getting hurt have to be either hospitalized or in the morgue. The remaining few must have taken the Captain America’s super soldier serum, otherwise just how else could Rama or his tougher opponents survive being sliced and diced? Practically an hour or two later, they are back to stomping on everyone. Only in comic books can this happen! Even the vagabond, Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian), shows that he’s quite the warrior when he’s able to take multiple blows before a knife finally plunges into his body.
Sadly, there are too many characters to try to figure out where they belong in this organization. Not all of them get a proper introduction or a decent reveal of exactly who they are or where they fit in the grande scheme of things. Unlike a Quentin Tarantino film, where no full introductions are needed, this one could benefit. If all these origins were explained in the first film, then newcomers seeing the second will not know it.
Some viewers like to have a better understanding of who these supporting characters are, but when that’s missed or not recapped, their importance is not understood. When considering Putra nearly steals the show in his shifty portrayal of a spoiled brat of a kingpin with his own goals, a more detailed exploration of who this character is definitely required. As Ucok makes allies with other gangs, just who is worse might get upstaged by Bejo (Alex Abbad), who looks like he should belong in a James Bond film. With the shades and walking stick to give this character some class, he might give Sean Connery a run for his money.
Although these villains seem rather one-dimensional, at least writer/director Gareth Evans defines Rama better. Uwais actually gets moments to act out his feelings than to simply play a stone cold Yuda. Japanese manga readers may find that Yuda is very much like the usually expressionless Golgo13, a professional assassin who is a highly skilled martial arts fighter and gunman, The two even share similar hairstyles! But for Americans. Rama can be likened to John McClane from Die Hard. Even both films rings with some familiarity: when it comes to busting terrorists, there’s nothing like going postal to get the job done!
3.5 Stars out of 5
May 19th update:
The DVD/Bluray has a scheduled release of July 8, 2014. The video extras will include the following Special Features”
- “Gang War” Deleted Scene (Blu-ray Exclusive)
- Featurettes (DVD): “The Next Chapter: Shooting a Sequel” and “Cinefamily Foundation Q&A with Gareth Huw Evans, Iko Uwais & Joe Trapanese”
- Featurettes (Blu-ray Exclusive): “Ready for a Fight: On Location” and “Violent Ballet: Behind the Choreography”
- English Dub in addition to the original language version of the film
- Director Commentary with Gareth Huw Evans