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Gareth Evans has left an indelible mark on action cinema and graced the action genre with his latest entry in The Raid series. While he certainly made it a point for him to be paid attention to, with The Raid, but with The Raid 2: Berandal, Evans utilizes every single facet of filmmaking in order to present a film that future films will try to imitate and recreate its stunning beauty. The Raid 2 picks up right after the first film, where Rama (Iko Uwais) has gotten out of the clutches of the drug lord Tama, only to find himself into a whole new situation. Rama is forced into going deep undercover, in order to find out which police are in the underworld’s pocket. In the process of this, he becomes attached to Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo) and his son, Uco (Arifin Putra) who are major crime figures within the city of Jakarta. They are allied with the Goto Family, headed by Mr. Goto (Kenichi Endo), who’s a Yakuza, also based in Jakarta, that has allied himself with Bangun in order to keep the peace and make money at the same time. When a young up-start named Bejo (Alex Abbad) who’s trying to cut into the city by force, it disrupts the truce between Bangun and The Goto family, creates a major war, which leaves Rama right in the middle trying to fend for himself.
At 150 minutes, The Raid 2: Berandal brings an energy and scope that I can honestly say I’ve never seen before. Sure, The Raid provided some thrilling action sequences and plenty of intricate fight choreography, but The Raid 2 has everything in it. From gunplay, to hand to hand combat, to car chases, The Raid 2 ups the ante in every way and makes it a point to outdo its predecessor. Iko Uwais brings both an intricacy and delicacy to the role of Rama, who struggles with being both a father and as an undercover agent. The additions to the cast are many, but the most stand out performances have to come from Arifin Putra’s Uco and Alex Abbad’s Bejo. Both men equally vying for power within the city and each of them have something to prove. For Uco, he’s doing everything in his power to leave both a legacy and distance himself from the large shadow that his father Bangun casts across Jakarta. Bejo, on the other hand, comes from nothing and is trying to make something of himself in the underworld, by any means necessary. Both actor’s play the parts as eager, young upstarts, but with totally different mentalities. Putra’s portrayal is a reckless man who will try anything to climb the ladder of power quickly. Abbad gives Bejo a calm demeanor, who is both ruthless and manages to work his way through the ranks, through leaving a trail of bodies and recruiting the most vicious of killers to his side. Two of the most interesting characters are appropriately dubbed, Baseball Bat Man and Hammer Girl, which appear in some of the most ridiculous and insane fight sequences put to film. If you thought the Oh Dae-Su hammer fight in Oldboy was awesome, you just need to see Hammer Girl in action, to appreciate what Evan’s is doing for action junkies around the world.
In The Raid, Evans showed some interesting angles and applied some unique styles of shooting, but for his sequel, he simply managed to outdo himself. Moving in and out of cars, to shooting within confine spaces, Evans’ camera is always about movement and motivation. The camera work matches the intensity and energy that The Raid 2 is always striving for. The use of some fantastic sound design create great moments of both tension and character development, especially for Rama in a few key scenes.
The Raid 2: Berandal simply belongs in the same stratosphere as films like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and dare I say it, The Godfather II, in the sense that it provides an incredible means of both technical and creative force that obliterates any notion of its predecessor. If you haven’t seen the first film, do yourself a favor and go see both of these films right now and thank me later.