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Symphonic cinematic action comes alive in 'The Raid 2'

Julie Estelle as Hammer Girl in "The Raid 2".
Julie Estelle as Hammer Girl in "The Raid 2".
© Sony Pictures Classics

The Raid 2


"The Raid 2" is a bloody ballet. There is a beautiful flow to every punch and kick and swing of the bat. Every car crash and toppling water jug is as precise as any note in an expertly composed concerto.

Iko Uwais, the star of "The Raid 2", is a physical force on screen that is up there with the masters of the cinematic martial arts craft. "The Raid 2" alone cements his place alongside the likes of people like Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee that just have an incredible physical presence on screen.

Iko Uwais may not show much varying emotions in this particular role, but his body is the main composer of this symphony of broken bones and bloodshed. His hands move at an increasingly fast pace in one scene as he punches a wall. His fists move so fast that they become one giant blur. Eyes can only see his hands in flashes as they impact the wall. Bits of the wall start to fly off as he begins to penetrate the surface of the wall. Each hit in the film likewise begins to penetrate the viewer's skin. Every hit is felt and accompanied by audible "oooohs" and "yeaaaahs" and applause at all the appropriate moments.

Every member of this cinematic band plays their part both in the audience and on screen. The fight choreography is perfectly timed with the audience reactions. Both play off of each other like a great improvisational music moment happening live on stage in an intimate club.

A broken bone sings out and the audience responds with an "oooh" for the back up harmony. The pulsing rhythm of car tires treading on the ground are like the sound of a pulsing bass. Every rapid fire punch pounding on its target is like the beating of a drumstick to a drum.

At two and a half hours long and filling most of that time with action, "The Raid 2" can be a little exhausting at times. Usually, I find myself wanting more and more action from an action movie, but after one particularly long action sequence in "The Raid 2" that ended with the prospect of another beginning right after, I found myself thinking "Enough." I could not handle any more action. I wast still trying to catch my breath after the last action extravaganza.

Not all of "The Raid 2" is action, however. There is a thin plot tying all the scenes together. What I found, however, is that this plot did not matter to me and was more there to offer me a moment to catch my breath and contemplate in between the explosions of action.

Really, there is not much to contemplate in "The Raid 2" though. The characters are not deep and in fact are barely developed at all. The most interesting characters in the movie all display their traits and personality through their fighting styles and choice of weapon. Some characters are unique, clever, and comical in their choice of fighting style and the others are just punching bags for them to hit.

I do wish that the characters were more engaging beyond their fists. I did find myself waiting in anticipation for the next action scene and my mind wandering during much of the dialogue. I can't say I really cared much one way or the other who lived or who died. I only rooted for the main character because he was the underdog going up against so many people and because he seemed to get a lot of screen time, implying he was the protagonist of the film. I didn't really have an emotional connection to the characters in "The Raid 2". I had more of an emotional connection to the action scenes and, if anything, I was rooting mostly for action moments to happen rather than for characters to achieve any goals.

Fortunately, in "The Raid 2" almost all my action desires were answered and then some. "The Raid 2" is masterful and even poetic in its violence. Visually, "The Raid 2" is up there with the best of the action movie greats whether it is the gunshot operas of John Woo or the martial arts mayhem of Yuen Woo-Ping or Sammo Hung. I may have felt a lack of character development in the "Raid 2", but I feel it more than made up for it in its pure action intensity. Taken solely on action alone, "The Raid 2" is truly awe-inspiring.