The Raid 2 is writer/director Gareth Evans followup to his well received 2011 kung-fu killing spree, The Raid: Redemption. Iko Uwais returns to the role of Rama, who is sent to prison, undercover, in order to infiltrate a triad of mafia families and bring them down. Once again, the action scenes in The Raid 2 are fantastic, and everything else is just filler. The trouble this time around is that at 2 1/2 hours running time there’s just too damn much of that filler.
The movie opens strong. After setting up a few new characters and introducing Rama into the prison population, Rama is forced into a fight in the prison shitters, using the stall as a mini-Hot Gates to cull the crowd of a couple dozen or so attackers that are anxious to beat on the new fish.
Afterwards, we learn that his mark, Uco, the son of a prominent mobster sent the attack and fancies himself as king shit of turd prison. Of course, mere moments of screentime later, someone else decides that the middle of a rainstorm in a muddy exercise yard might be the best place to get all stabby with Uco, and Rama helps defend him. Once the resulting (amazing) riot is over Rama has earned Uco’s trust.
After the fight mudbath, we see Rama walking out of the prison. TWO YEARS LATER fills the screen, and it’s right about then that the movie turns to shit. It’s easily another 30 minutes before any major fighting takes place.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie has some amazing fight scenes that are easily on par with the original film. Unfortunately, Evans seemingly decided that rather than stick within the confines of the prison–recreating the Die Hard meets Enter the Dragon claustrophobic atmosphere that really set the first film apart–he was going to go in a different direction. A Donnie Brasco meets Enter the Dragon, which should be way more entertaining that this. Probably because Rama doesn’t seem to really go through the whole “What have I become?” loss of self that makes a great undercover story. As a result, the plot drags along for 20 to 30 minute blocks at a time, unneccessarily, because the twists and turns of the story don’t really change the fact that clearly at some point Rama will have to elbow punch and knee kick all these motherfuckers to death.
On the positive side, the boss and mini-boss fights in this movie are great. They all really stand out. Most have that same basic, gritty character design that set Yayan Ruhian’s Mad Dog apart in the first film, but the mini-boss duo of Very Tri Yulisman and Julie Estelle have gimicks which almost seemed pulled out of Anime. Yulisman does well as an assassin with a love for baseball, while Estelle’s dual wielding “Hammer Girl” is sure to be cosplayed at conventions for years to come. Cecep Arif Rahman does a great job as the movie’s main boss fighter, but his fight against Rama isn’t nearly as memorable as the two-on-one final bout against Mad Dog in The Raid: Redemption.
Let’s face it, the only reason to turn out for this movie is the fighting, and it’s done exceptionally well. However, it’s not the only focus of the movie this time around. I applaud that they tried to reach a deeper level and connection with their audience. There’s nothing out there saying that a movie can’t have a great story and great fight scenes. They just failed miserably in their attempts, I think. The movie is well worth watching, but if you’d rather head over to YouTube and watching just the fight scenes, it might be the wiser choice.