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'The Raid 2: Berandal' review: An aggressively jawdropping sensation

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The Raid 2: Berandal

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"The Raid 2: Berandal" is released theatrically in Houston starting today, April 11.

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"The Raid: Redemption" was the most impressive action film to come along in years and helped define the new standard for martial arts cinema. Watching the film leaves you with this overwhelming sensation that you just watched something special; adrenaline rapidly pumps through your veins, the hair on your arms stands up in excitement, and the nonstop, bone-crunching action leaves you with these magnificent chills that would travel in waves from head to toe. Writer, director, and all around bad ass Gareth Evans has created a viciously savage flesh pounding phenomenon that has left fans drooling and clamoring for more.

"The Raid 2: Berandal" picks up a mere two hours after the first film and the jolting opening is sure to get your attention as Bejo (Alex Abbad) toys with Rama's brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah) before having one of his men shoot Andi in the temple with a shotgun. The events of "The Raid: Redemption" have left Rama (Iko Uwais) a marked man and has only attracted bigger and more dangerous crime bosses that put his family in danger. So like any officer who is backed into a corner, Rama agrees to go undercover, is arrested, and sent to prison where he befriends Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo) the biggest crime boss in the Jakarta underworld. Rama not only becomes a debt collecting enforcer of Bangun, but also a spy sent to infiltrate Bangun's ranks in order to seek out corrupt cops.

The transitions in the film immediately catch your eye. They blend the events from what happened right after the events of the first film with Rama's current prison sentence and they're generally pretty flawless in execution. While there was certainly quite a bit of storytelling in the first film, "The Raid 2: Berandal" is even more methodical in its pacing. It seems to set up so much before you finally see that first action sequence in the prison bathroom as it introduces really extraordinary action in extremely tight spaces, which is something the film returns to a bit later on. Rama is going through a lot of drama as he's forced to pick sides in prison and his sentence turns out being longer than he expected for circumstances he can no longer control. It leads to this fantastic prison brawl in the mud that is pure non-stop mayhem that appears to be several long-take sequences pieced together to make this massive, bloody free-for-all.

The Indonesian action film is also able to craft these little extra moments of tension involving Rama being undercover and almost getting caught on several occasions. The film is able to graze the surface of your emotions as you witness Rama listen to his son over the phone for the first time since getting out of prison. This is kind of a big deal since martial arts and action films in general tend to be a one trick pony and the fact that "The Raid 2: Berandal" squeezes so much into its less than two hour duration is rather amazing.

The method in which "The Raid 2: Berandal" is filmed is rather unique. At times, the camera will often follow the person being punched or kicked or if the person gets punched and bounces back up the camera will make the same movement. When Topan (Epy Kusnandar) is thrown through a window, the camera leans to the right. When he's thrown through another window, the camera turns upside down as Topan lands on his head and doesn't straighten itself until Topan uncoils himself. When Rama is fighting The Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman), Rama slams his opponents face down on stainless steel and then slides his face on its surface all while the camera follows. Prakoso (the returning Yayan Ruhian playing a different character) stabs a man and you see the blade go through a fence. As 'Koso is sliding the blide out of this fresh corpse, the camera jumps to the hole the blade made on the opposing side. You see the body slide to the ground and 'Koso stare at his messy handiwork for a moment before finally walking away.

You will never look at a metal baseball bat the same way again after watching Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) drag his bat along the ground and the repeating and sickening TING! noise it makes whenever he hits someone. The subway sequence featuring Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) is just as notable. Not only is it gruesome, but it gives the hammer sequence in "Oldboy" a run for its money in greatness. The film comes back around to claustrophobic fight sequences as Rama fights for his life inside of a taxi and again in an SUV. Rama fights four men inside of a car and makes it thrilling; the overhead shot of the mayhem inside instantly makes the sequence outstanding. While "The Raid: Redemption" didn't hold back any punches when it came to blood and gore, "The Raid 2: Berandal" is even gorier. You'll have to check your feet and the chair you're sitting in for pieces of flesh, bullet casings so hot they'll likely singe your fingertips, and puddles of blood by the time it's all over.

The sequel is an overall improvement from the original film in every way imaginable; the action is injected with even more adrenaline and insane stunts, the story is stronger, the dialogue is better, and you're even more enticed with Rama's journey into hell. The one issue is that the phrase, “With all due respect,” is uttered way more than it should throughout the course of the film. The war with the Japanese and the ongoing power struggle Rama now finds himself in the middle of only makes the repetitive use of the phrase even more tiresome.

"The Raid 2: Berandal" is overflowing with heartstopping car chases, preposterously brilliant fight scenes that keep going long after they've taken your breath away, and enough blood and guts to shock even the most desensitized individuals. "The Raid 2: Berandal" is a rapid fire machine gun to the face kind of action film that never lets up. Gareth Evans has discovered the perfect formula for exquisite martial arts bliss as "The Raid 2: Berandal" is even more insane, brutal, and intense than the first film.

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