The Raid 2: Berandal (2014) Review
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Certificate: 18 Running Time: 2hr 30 Mins
Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra, Donny Alamsyah, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad
Plot: Set a short time after the events in The Raid, Rama goes undercover with a criminal family in Jakarta with the plan of exposing corrupt officers in the Indonesian police force.
It was at Film 4 Frightfest last year where Gareth Evans was in attendance to present his sensational collaborative segment in found-footage horror anthology, V/H/S 2. Co-directed with Indonesian film-maker, Timo Tjahjanto, ‘Safe Haven’ brutally documents the infiltration of a satanic cult by a group of documentary film-makers. It stands proudly as one of the most chilling and memorable pieces of horror/action cinema in the past decade. After the screening, Evans
hammered expectations for The Raid 2: Berandal through the roof with a sneak peek of some exclusive footage from the upcoming martial arts epic. Catching up with Evans in the lobby afterwards, he was incredibly humbled by the vociferous reception to The Raid in Indonesia (where is it the most successful Indonesian film of all time) but also across the world (made on a shoestring budget of $1M, it grossed fifteen times that amount at the box office in 2011) and promised the sequel would ‘take things up a notch’. With five times the budget of the original and more resources at his disposal, The Welshman said I wouldn’t be disappointed and it’s safe to say… he was right.
Whilst The Raid smashed through barriers and re-defined a genre, The Raid 2 has obliterated all that has gone before it and chiseled its unique mark in the face of all that we thought possible. Evans has created a skull-crushing phenomenon that is driven by a fearless and gifted group of combat specialists (led by the inimitable Iko Uwais) There is a fierce, raw energy that rages through the spine of each knee-jerking and bone-crunching action set piece that propel Berandal to dizzying heights. This is a transformative experience that is unrivalled both in terms of its relentlessly savage nature but also in its unwavering ambition to interweave multiple strands of storytelling in what unfolds as a sprawling gangster epic. Whilst the plot is fairly generic with regards to its familiar character tropes there are performances of real substance from Uwais (Rama) and the power hungry Arifin Putra (Uco) that ensure the emotional engagement is heightened in comparison to its prequel. Uco’s fateful and shocking encounter with his father forms a prime example.
For all its emotional integrity, the legacy of The Raid 2 will be in its scintillating fusion of traditional Indonesian martial art, Pencak Silat, with a radical integration of weaponry. Any object in the vicinity of the location is transformed into a device of destruction. The gritty realism and desperate fight scenes effectively transmute the environment into your opponents’ greatest adversary. Whether it’s a frying pan in a kitchen or a hammer, each latent object is a force to be reckoned with.
Perhaps Evans’ greatest achievement is creating a pair of distinctive comic-book style villains in the form of Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat man. Each has their weapon of choice and engages in some of the most stylistic action set pieces in recent times. If Chan-Wook Park held the accolade for the most brutal hammer sequence in Oldboy (2003) then that honor is sure to be tested with a no-holds barred subway massacre where Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) decimates her opponents in brutal fashion. Such flawless execution is visible in Rama’s chaotic prison encounters. The first unfolds in the toilet cubicle where we are introduced to the iconic machine gun punch and the expansive mud-bath courtyard sequence. With enemies attacking from every angle imaginable, this makes for a gut wrenching ride of survivalist instinct.
To capture such frenzied intensity consistently over the course of its extensive running time is remarkable, whenever the plot ambles (mainly in the first hour), Evans amplifies and accelerates proceedings with pulsating action that breathes new life into the film and maintains its momentum. Look out for arguably the greatest car chase sequence in our lifetime. The high speeds are trebled with danger with an explosive dose of close-counter combat which makes for a breathtakingly tense spectacle. It truly must be seen to be believed. The role of the bearded Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian) adds a truthful acknowledgement on loyalty and its meaning in the criminal underworld. He is an assassin who has dedicated his life to service of a crooked criminal but when all the swords have been thrown, the inevitable fate of his selfish stance is unsurprising. The stand-out scene is Rama’s kitchen fight scene which is a forceful war of attrition with the brilliant assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman, a respected Pencak Silat trainer). The grueling seven minute scene is a test of endurance and encapsulates the heart-pounding brand of fighting that Evans has showcased to the world. For some, the ultra-violence will surely be overbearing and repulsive. This is a genre film that goes all out and leaves nothing in the tank.
With an American remake on the horizon, it should be noted that Evans’ Indonesian voyage can never (and quite frankly should never) be replicated nor matched. This is a work of a master craftsman who has created a niche and re-branded a genre. Every action film will pale in comparison to the intensity in The Raid films. This has set a benchmark so high that even Rama’s flying kick may struggle to knock it down. Another sequel is planned but it is refreshing to hear Evans is teaming up with Timo Tjahjanto for another project before revisiting this world. It might just give us time to lick our wounds, recover and clench our fists in preparation for another battle.