Featuring: Iko “Merantau” Uwais , Arifin “Macabre” Putra , Alex “Rokkap” Abbad
Writer & Director: Gareth “The Raid” Evans
Also Known As: The Raid: Retaliation , The Raid 2: Berandal
Sequel to: The Raid: Redemption
Yep, I decided to stick around Indonesia for an extra week and knock out The Raid 2 while I’m here. I will neither confirm nor deny the rumors that I’m still here because a giant shark leapt from the ocean and ate my private helicopter, as that’s a matter for my insurance company to decide. Instead, let’s talk about Raid Harder and get this undercover boogaloo underway!
Oh. Uhm, before we get started, despite my best efforts to keep the twists and results of the first movie unspoiled, the simple act of reviewing this sequel is going to require that I undo my own efforts. So, if you don’t want me to pull the thread and unravel the poorly stitched monstrosity that was my Raid: Redemption episode, I suggest you take Lord Humungus’ advice and “Just walk away.” At least until you get a chance to watch the first one.
Are they gone? Cool. Now, everyone reading beyond this point has either seen the first flick or doesn’t give a dry hump about seeing a cheat sheet for it, right? Cuz even though I’m still restricted from typing word one about anything that could prematurely hasten the sequel’s “Sell By” date, I will be turning some MAJOR events of the original into a mold maligned mess in a matter of moments, starting……..now: – Jakartan SWAT team rookie Rama (played by real life Silat martial arts champion Iko Uwais) survived the eponymous raid upon the apartment complex from Hell. Crimelord-turned-slumlord Tama’s fortress of operations made him seemingly untouchable, but Rama’s Jenga™ game (and the help of his brother Andi) was just too legendary to withstand, and Tama’s Tower was toppled.
Well, supercop Ramadan is back. Picking up almost immediately where the previous film left off, our hero has uncovered the terminal cancer of corruption in the Jakartan justice system that allowed Tama to operate unabated. Upon Andi’s advice, he gets in touch with a man named Bunawar (Cok Simbara), who is one of the last corruption-free cops left on the police force. With a few of his trusted men, BunWarmer has the injured Bowo (yeah, he survived too) taken to a safe hospital, feng shuis captured traitor Lieutenant Wahyu’s brains outside of his skull, and recruits Rammy into their small operation of on-the-level officers. He promises to protect Rama’s wife and son-to-be but wants to send the Raid-er of the last arc (har har) undercover. The plan is to get him deep enough into cahoots with the syndicate that he can get the names of all the pigs on the bad guys’ payroll and flush ’em out fiercer than the trans-dimensional warp toilet that took Mario and Luigi to the Mushroom Kingdom in “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show” intro.
While Ram considers whether he wants to get this dedicated to his work or not, brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah) gets wasted by underworld figure Bejo (Alex Abbad), who plans on overtaking Jakarta as its new kingpin once current head bad guy Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo) is removed from power…or gets his face blown off. Whichever happens first. According to Bejo, Andi apparently pulled an Icarus and let his ambitions carry his ass too close to the sun when he succeeded his previous employer Tama, following his death in the prior flick. Unlike Tama, Andi didn’t know well enough to know his role, shut his mouth, and smell what The Rock was cookin’. He dipped his finger in the brownie batter and ends up on the receiving end of a Nicky Santoro Special as a result. Don’t get it? No, it’s not a sandwich. Or a sex act. Go watch Casino. Joe Bob Briggs has a cameo! I’ll wait.
Before we get back to progressing with our protagonist, here’s the quick-and-dirty on the Jakartan underbelly. As mentioned, Bangun (which is presumably more powerful than a ban hammer) runs half of the city, while the other 50%’s governing faction is a family of ne’er-do-well Yakuza from Japan known as the Goto. If you need bad things done and laws broken, you might say they’re your “go to guys”… After which you’ll likely be stabbed in the stomach for making the same gut groaningly bad pun they’ve no doubt heard more times than Connor MacLeod’s katana was folded. The two sides have been at peace for the last decade, staying out of each other’s business. Crime and let crime. They each have their own bribery deals with the police, headed by the evil Commisioner Reza (Roy Martin), who’s the big fish BunBun is hoping to land with Rama’s help, provided that he agrees. Which I’ll bet he does, otherwise we wouldn’t have much of a movie.
And what is Bun’s means to his end? Ram Man’s going to prison under the alias of Yuda: a nobody from nowhere that nobody knows about. Yep, our big man’s going to the big house. Once there, it’s his job to get in good with ‘Gun’s sole son, Uco (Arifin Putra), which may or may not be short for “Yucko”. It’s never really addressed. To make sure Rammstein catches the bad guy’s eye right out of the gate, the crime he gets arrested for is beating the shit out of the son of the politician who got Ucky put there in the first place. Like any good actor, what’s Rama’s motivation for beating said offspring’s ass? He works with Bejo. Yeah, after seeing what this guy did to all those machete assholes a la Redemption, I wouldn’t want to be in the British Knights© of anybody under the employ of the guy who shotgunned Andi’s face straight into a shallow grave.
Ramrod goes through with the plan, kicking the shit out of the senator’s son (not such a “fortunate one” now, eh?) and getting himself incarcerated. When trying to get the attention of the major players in the clink, it doesn’t hurt to single-handedly take on fifteen guys in a toilet at once (in a fight, not a gangbang, ya perverts), which Rama does to moderate success. Punching out the biggest guy in the place? Not good enough when you’re doing time in the Eastern Hemisphere! You don’t cripple at least 5 guys in the first hour, you may as well get “fuck hole” tattooed around your mouth. Peacocking his titanium beach balls makes our hero the number one draft on wanna-be-Greaser haired Uco’s recruiting drive, especially given that he needs all the protection he can get what with his high profile status.
The two hit it off (kinda), and before you know it we FF>> a pair of calendars to Rama finishing out his sentence. The since freed Uco greets him at the prison gates and ushers him back into the fresh air of freedom, immediately taking his new BFF to meet dear old dad. After some awkward introductions and a getting a new set of threads, Rams is tasked by Bangun (seriously, his name sounds like an Ultraman villain!) to babysit Uco, making sure his brash, youthful aspirations don’t make the lad too big for his britches and put him on the wrong side of the wrong people. Speaking of the wrong people, Bejo’s consolidated his power enough to get some attention by the bosses, and may be eyeing his own ill-fitting pair of Dockers.
Our main man falls by the wayside for the middle piece of the movie, as the focus shifts to all of the basic crime movie political stuff: factions pitting factions against one another, struggles for power, illicit activities, peace treaties, backroom scheming, assassinations and so on. Rama’s really just there to keep Uco from killing karaoke call girls for this section. He comes back adamantium hard for the final act though, breaking limbs, splitting lips, and cracking skulls like ass kicking is his business and he’s having a clearance sale! There’s even a cool (albeit it oddly music deprived) car chase sequence that’s pretty damn spiffy, along with some righteous fisticuffs between Big Hero Ram and the movie’s trio of gimmick antagonists (credited as “Hammer Girl”, “Baseball Bat Man”, and “The Assassin”). It’s some of the best action I’ve seen since Set gave that classroom full of 1st graders PCP and duct taped razorblades to their fists! Every one of them got an A+ that day, I tell you. Except little Duncan. Poor kid never learned to guard his left…
Speaking of psychotic violence for personal enjoyment, for anyone (like myself) who was a big fan of Yayan Ruhian’s “homeless man murder machine” Mad Dog from Redemption, Ruhian returns for the sequel as Prakoso: the homeless man murder machine who works as the personal assassin for Bangun and family, and has done so for so long that Uco calls him uncle. ‘Oso is far more humanized than Mad Dog was (no surprise, since his name was Mad Dog, after all. Duh.), doesn’t share his antecedent’s predilection for unassisted conflict, and manages to look even more like an unwashed hobo. I can’t wait to see him pop up in The Raid 3 dressed like Jed Clampett and wielding a bindle like some crazy-ass Boxcar Willie Chan! That’s a joke that completely shits the bed since Willie Chan was Jackie Chan’s talent agent-slash-co-producer and not a performer. Fuck. Moving on!
This was originally intended to be Evans’ sophomore feature following his debut picture, Merantau, but as a barely proven writer-director at the time, the Welshman had to put it on the backburner and come up with the much more thrifty Redemption first to prove that he was indeed worthy of his original dream’s asking price. It became an international hit and Indonesia’s highest grossing movie of all time (a statistic I just pulled out of my ass, so I wouldn’t quote it if I were you), and as such, Raid 2 was born. The only problem here is that this is only tangentially a sequel. Not a shock, as it was written first and not intended to be a follow-up, but the idea of a rookie SWAT officer thrown directly into an undercover operation grates my cheese. I guess NetFlix training by sitting through half-a-dozen similar movies is enough to get by in the Jakartan crime world.
There’s obviously more story here, so the action isn’t as nonstop as before. But, as I said in the last review, Evans’ strong point isn’t writing, so adding more story and script to the formula does him few favors. Sadly, barring a few exceptions, if you’ve seen one undercover-pig flick you’ve pretty much seen them all. As well-versed in fighting chops as the cast is, they’re not a shade on Donnie Brasco when it comes to acting chops, nor is the tale half as intriguing and well twisted as Infernal Affairs (or its ‘Merican-izing, The Departed). I’m far from being a crime fiction fanboy, but I could smell the (french) twists on this one coming like Nozone can smell Junkyard taking his morning shit in the backyard 5 minutes before he even squats.
That reference is probably gonna require a Google or two, so don’t feel bad if it sounds like I was speaking Aramaic for a minute there.
Not wanting to sacrifice what got him this far to begin with, Evans still puts plenty of bang-pow into his movie. As a result though, the runtime on R the Deuce hits a harder to swallow 2.5 hours. Blame my underdeveloped gag reflex if you like, but 150 minutes for something like this is a bit much. The original cut came in at something short of 4 hours though, which is probably the stuff they’re going to Frankenstein Raid 3 out of. As much as Mr. Evans knows how to shoot a fight scene too, there are needless bits of shaky cam during non-action scenes, as if he’s got some kinda hyperactive disorder and can’t let the camera stand still for more than a few minutes at a time. It kinda kills the drama of the moment when you’re too busy getting dizzy to stay engaged. Oh well. Still not as amateurish and off-putting as Michael Bay’s bowel movie-ments.
As a guy who cites Jackie Chan, John Woo, and Sam Peckinpah as his action objects of idolatry, it’s nice to see Evans make movies that would do them proud. He also does the classic “director who’s also a fanboy” thing and puts in a few nods to other movies while he’s at it, including a *wink*wink* to Oldboy and a *nudge*nudge* to Versus. Shit, he even drops a reference to his freshman feature Merantau, since Rama’s alias Yuda was also Uwais’ character’s name. Pretty sneaky, Sis.
On a whole, The Raid 2 is a groovy slab of movie. Though he won’t win any writing awards, Gareth Evans is still a stellar action guy. He may be one of the best fight choreographers in the world! I probably won’t watch this again without doing the Fast Forward Fandango to soak in the beautiful brutality and glorious goriness, but my complaints are limited. Bring on the finale to the trilogy!
Before I go, I’d like to give every moviemaker ever a bit of solid advice: do something incredibly memorable and parody worthy with your movie’s subtitle. Don’t do something so generic as “The Revenge” or “The Final Chapter”, but do something that will make people remember your movie years after everyone has forgotten what the fuck it was or who starred in it or even if it was good or not. Truly unforgettable subtitles like “The Legend of Curly’s Gold” or “The Destruction of Jared-Syn” or, the inspiration for today’s alternate title, “Electric Boogaloo”. Trust me, I’ve never even seen Breakin’ 2, but I’d have to be subjected to some fucking Manchurian Candidate level brain rape before I ever forget something like “Electric Boogaloo”. Hell, it’ll probably be my activation code when I become a sleeper cell agent!
No matter which continent you’re on, “douche bag” is a universal language.
“Uggh! Was that you?! Have you been eating brussel sprouts lately, or did something just crawl up your ass and die?!”
“You may not have noticed, but my hair is beginning to thin slightly. Where do you stand on the ‘keep it natural’ vs. ‘shave it’ debate?”
“You’ve failed this city.”
Looks like the Taco Bell men’s room after Fifty Cent Burrito Happy Hour.
“Can I interest you in some of my homemade ‘Jailhouse Rockin’ hair gel? I mix it in my cell toilet. Just 7 cigarettes for an all-day hold you can depend on!”
Woodstock ’99: the Morning After
Indonesian Bruce Campbell!
“Pfttt! I pay an extra dollar for the Premium Alpo© and it tastes the same as the regular stuff! Waste of money.”
“If you EVER eat the last S’Mores Pop Tart again, I will make it so you spend the rest of your life sitting down to pee. Do you hear me!?”
“No! Please! I had to save up 6 months pay to FINALLY buy this Incredible Hulk #181! It’s the last book I needed to complete my Wolverine collection! DON’T TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME!”
They’re practicing the new men-only partner yoga – Broga.
“I’m telling you, man, if you bend your fingers up like this when you’re doing it, you’ll hit the g-spot every time! It drives the women CRAZY!”
Anubis will return next time in
“What’s Eating Gilbert Chan?”
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