So the fire brigade have finally removed me from my local cinema's wall after I was blown through it from the high octane, bone snapping, throat slitting, ultra-violent, double-bill extravaganza that is, The Raid 1 & 2. In my state of paralysis I managed to see The Raid 2 (The Raid 2: Berandal in some territories) a whopping 2 more times and it's safe to say, repeated viewings are essential.
Back in 2012 my jaw was magnetized to the floor after seeing The Raid at The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, where I also got to meet the legendary duo, Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans. I went in expecting a fun, decent action-thriller but holy SHIT did I get something better. Quite literally from start to finish, we're introduced to a barrage of intense gun-play and a brutal, unflinching, martial-arts chaos. Some people (imbeciles) often say that is has no plot and it's a "dumb, same old actioner" - Well that's where they're utterly wrong!
The Raid's opening few minutes completely set up all of the necessary characters with simple and effective techniques. From the get-go you have a feel for all of the people you're dealing with. You don't NEED a boring 20 minute introduction to who these people are because you learn all about them in the first 30 seconds of seeing them.
- Rama - Caring husband, soon to be father, traditional & aiming to be the best he can be.
- Tama - Drug lord, latent psychopath, merciless, violent & sleazy.
- Andi & Mad Dog - Loyal, merciless, fearless & clearly not to be fucked with.
- Jaka - On the ball, ultra professional, level headed & loyal to his men.
- Bowo - Hot-headed, a complete dick, a clear antagonist & screaming for redemption.
All of this becomes abundantly clear straight away, so to have anything else would be needless! You have a connection and it already has you bet into the action! Amid this is some absolutely tremendous cinematography, rarely seen in "same old actioners". Already from a technical side it's amazing until we reach the end where essentially the entire set up for The Raid 2 is introduced. All done within about 5 minutes. This is living proof that you can have a film that is 95% action and still contain an intriguing and compelling story that will have you dying for more. Which explains why I saw this film 7 times in the cinema... and twice at home.
At this point your neck must be in tatters from nodding in agreement but you're still wondering why the double bill is necessary, aren't you?
Well, let me put it this way. The Raid 2 amplifies the story by a million, it takes a slower, more in-depth approach to not just get you familiar with new characters on the way, but with the politics of Indonesian criminals. It takes roughly about 40 minutes (of a 152 minute running time) to really kick in (pun 100% intended) with the action. There are two or three great moments of action in those 40 minutes but the absolute balls to the wall stuff doesn't chisel it's way into your dreams 'til then.
To me, this could be a bit jarring to people, even to super fans who are expecting the same sort of pacing and style as the first. I've heard people say they were some-what disappointed (for a few hours until they realised how good it actually was) with the film as a whole. The main reason for this, I firmly believe, is because these two films belong together as one viewing.
The Raid 2 is set a mere two hours after the first film, so by watching them back to back, you're still completely on board with what's going on! Think of it as a 4 hour movie - You have the explosive first half, non-stop action madness that winds down to a great set up that continues straight away and guides you into an engaging crime story that just builds and builds it's way to an ultimate and ferociously climactic finish! Not many sequels can have that effect! Back To The Future certainly did, but most would be a few years apart story wise and it'd feel like staring the ride all over again, like Die Hard - A tremendously fun trilogy (there is only fucking 3, don't question it) but it can be tiresome to sit through in a marathon as your mind starts all over again as each film does. The Raid's however, keep on going from the word go!
This utter masterpiece was seen three times by me, each time better than the last. The broad story was more clear and I was able to dissect every scene of drool inducing violence, it was incredible! But ideally, this film would be viewed as a Raid 1 & 2 double bill every time. Truly and utterly riveting stuff! Although in a few years watching these back to back wont be enough, I'll need that (inevitably) glorious third part to come into play. Allegedly beginning 3 hours before the end of the second film, it's bound to slot itself in nicely as an ultimately spine shattering triple bill of sheer cinematic beauty!
These films deliver on all fronts and shouldn't be just considered as run of the mill action films. Story, acting, cinematography, choreography and action are all absolutely stellar. This should be viewed by everyone, ESPECIALLY those who have a keen interest in cinema.