Police officer Rama (Iko Uwais – Merantau) has just barely survived the raid on Tama’s tower block when he is enlisted to go deep undercover in a sting operation. By posing as an inmate in prison, Rama has to befriend the son of a crime syndicate boss (Arifin Putra – Batas) in order to infiltrate their organisation. But as the risk factor soon builds, Rama realises that he may have gone in too deep. The only way out will be to fight his way to the top and bring down the organisation himself.
The Raid was the surprise hit of 2012 and quickly became the biggest cult success of that year. Any sequel was always going to face an uphill task, with the escalating pressure to deliver another hit strongly expected by all. Thankfully The Raid 2 is a breathtaking assault on your senses that leaves you giddy and gob-smacked, with some of the finest martial arts you’ll ever witness on the big screen. Welsh writer/director Gareth Evans has crafted a true classic with The Raid 2 and has managed that rarest of things – a sequel that betters its predecessor. Whereas The Raid was a deceptively simple premise executed with ruthless precision, The Raid 2 is a sweeping crime epic, layered with creativity and a stunning vision of grandeur that amazes at every opportunity.
Iko Uwais is without doubt the next big thing in action cinema. Whilst many have laid claim to that title, Uwais has something different to offer. The likes of Tony Jaa (of Ong Bak fame) have rightly captured the imagination of an eager worldwide audience, using amazing martial arts skills to redefine the genre. But Iko Uwais offers more natural charisma and feels like a movie star as well as a born fighter. The Raid 2 gives Uwais a wonderful chance to broaden his acting skills and he jumps at the opportunity. He handles the complexities of Rama’s situation with pose and wisdom, delivering a truly breakout lead performance. Coupled with his furious combat skills (he even pounds away at a stone wall with his fists), Uwais is a name you’ll hear a lot more of in the future.
The fights are all beautifully choreographed and feature some breathtaking physicality. Yayan Ruhian who played The Raid’s fiercest bad guy Mad Dog, returns in The Raid 2 but as a different character. He co-choreographs most of the fights along with Iko Uwais. A specialist in both Silat Harimau and Silat Minang disciplines, Ruhian and Uwais provide numerous jaw-dropping moments throughout the film, including a nightclub sequence that pits Ruhian against a gang of mob hitters and an amazing prison riot scene that fully immerses the viewer. With the help of Bruce Law and Yee Man Law, there’s even a death-defying high speed car chase that puts all the other car chases you’ve ever seen to shame.
Whilst all of this is spectacular, the final fight sequences are just astonishing. Building up to a palpable sense of tension and raw aggression, these fights are simply genre-defining. Without going into too much detail, Very Tri Yulisman as Baseball Bat Man, Cecep Arif Rahman as The Assassin and the gorgeous Julie Estelle as Hammer Girl join Iko Uwais in creating set-pieces that will ultimately stand the test of time. If you thought The Raid had good action, wait until you see this. A beautiful ballet of brutality, these final fights leave you physically exhausted with your jaw firmly rooted to the ground.
But The Raid 2 isn’t just a bunch of action sequences tied together; it’s an encompassing crime epic. The film doesn’t weigh itself down with needless exposition but is broad enough to take this underworld story to the next level, mainly by expanding its scope. Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusodewo and Alex Abbad give this story a complexity that’s fascinating to see unravel. Similar to The Departed with tinges of The Dark Knight, Gareth Evans has taken a familiar concept and spun it into gold with a compelling saga that stands on its own merits. Add in the ultra violence and you have a genre movie that has it all. But above all else, The Raid 2 carries a real sense that anything could happen to any character at any time. And that’s an increasingly rare commodity these days.
The Raid 2 is brutal and explosive cinema at its absolute finest. Balletic in conception and flawlessly executed with raw energy and passion by Gareth Evans, The Raid 2 is a crime classic that will stand the test of time. This is not just the best film of 2014; it’s one of the best action films of all time. Other movies just shouldn’t bother to compete with this; The Raid 2 just won’t be beaten. Destined to be emulated for years to come, The Raid 2 is something quite special and will leave you awe-struck from start to end. Make no mistake; you’re witnessing a historic moment in cinema here.