Since I reviewed The Raid, directed by Welsh director Gareth Huw Evans, I figured I better watch the sequel, The Raid 2, to see how it shapes up. It was neat to see a few of my favorite characters from the first one live on as different characters in this one, given that they meet their untimely deaths by Rama (Iko Uwais, Triple Threat) in the first film. Ultimately though, The Raid 2 is a different movie from The Raid right from the word “go”.
The Raid 2 ties up one or two loose ends that the last film left hanging, perhaps purposefully, at the end of the first film. The Raid 2 starts off just two hours after The Raid ends, taking place in a sugarcane field in the middle of nowhere outside the city of Jakarta. There, Andi, Rama’s brother, is about to be executed by Bejo, (Alex Abbad, Buffalo Boys), the crime boss who took over from the unhinged Tama in the first film.
So at the beginning of the film, Rama is about to evaluate his life choices. Quickly. Because he’s still wearing his uniform from the first film, and Lt. Bunawar, ( Cok Simbara), the one cop who isn’t dirty in the whole world, it feels like, needs his help, again. And Bunawar’s just executed the dirty Lt. Wahyu, from the first film.
Bunawar tells Rama that the courts can’t help him because testifying would endanger Rama’s growing family. Rama has to decide if he will help overthrow the Bangun syndicate (whom Tama was and Bejo is in charge of), currently at war with a giant Japan syndicate, Goto. Rama finds out his brother has just been executed in the sugarcane field by Bejo and his men. He then agrees to help Bunawar by going undercover with Bangun.
First order of business, Rama goes about ingratiating himself with the Goto mob boss’s son Uco, who is currently languishing in a backwater Indonesian prison. Rama does the ingratiating on his own terms, but come on. It is just fun as all hell to watch these prison fights between all of these martial arts lunatics go down.
Rama goes undercover in prison with the name “Yuda”, and saves Uco, (Arifin Putra), from a prison riot. Uco is an impatient, ruthless jerk, though. His cold fury only contained by the number of people he can get his hands on to slice the throats of. Once Uco’s out of prison and back in the saddle with the Bangun syndicate. When Rama finishes his short sentence, he too emerges from prison. All to be Uco’s right-hand man along with his father and his father’s consigliere, Eka, (Oka Antara, Killers)..
Rama’s not really sure about Eka, knowing that he must be hiding something. To be sure, Rama has his hands full running interference between Bunawar and his new life being swept up into working for the mob. Eventually, he has to trust that his wife and new son are going to turn out okay regardless of his actions. And if he has to take down the entire Indonesian mob, he’ll at least go down swinging a well-placed punch and kick, or two.
Is The Raid 2 as good as the first? No, but it’s not like it mails it in in comparison to the first one. Far from it. And for my part, I enjoyed the small role Yuyan Ruhian has in this movie as Prakoso. His fights are always great.
Director Evans always wanted a crime epic ever since after he made Merantau, but the way to the finish line for him at the time was to make The Raid first. He was then able to fold his idea into The Raid’s sequel. The Raid 2 shows its own strengths in different ways than the first film did. There’s much more going on with some purely dialogue-driven scenes that will soundly remind one of The Godfather. But people are divided on the issue of whether or not having more detail in The Raid 2 is a good thing. And so, those that do will always judge it against which one of the two films they like better. So the jury’s still out on that one.
The action, for what it’s worth, is a cut above the first one. And the first one was really good!! So you know exactly what you have to look forward to. I won’t spoil that final battle, but I was so thrilled to learn they had found some legitimately creepy villains to fill the hole in our hearts that the epic The Raid film had left in terms of good villains. Those good villains are Baseball Bat Guy, (Very Tri Yulisman, Beyond Skyline), Hammer Girl, (Julie Estelle, Headshot, The Night Comes For Us), and The Assassin, (Cecep Arif Rahman, John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum), respectively. And no, I’m not making up their names. The action might go from stupendously groundbreaking to almost border on silly sometimes. But haven’t you always wanted to see a dude kill somebody with a baseball bat?
I think, rather than viewing The Raid 2 as the sequel to The Raid, I will continue to look at the two films as I have since finishing the sequel. And that is that the two films work together in tandem, each showing off strengths that the other could not. While I preferred the dark grittiness of The Raid, I’m not writing off The Raid 2, or it’s insane fight scenes, anytime soon. I like seeing what the two movies tell me about the story together, as a whole. As long as the movie involves a healthy amount of fisticuffs, and that’s a steady promise here in The Raid 2.