As long as the moving image has existed as a medium to tell stories there have always been films that have been highly anticipated as audiences and fans simply want to see what a certain filmmaker. In the year 2014 in rings no truer then with writer/director Gareth Evans follow up from the action packed "The Raid: Redemption" as "The Raid 2" finally graces theatres. The end results of which are an assault on the senses as Evans tries to spin this series and style into a sweeping crime drama, where the results are admittedly a little mixed, but are certainly never boring.
Following immediately after the events of The Raid, Ram (Iko Uwais) is forced to reinvent himself as an undercover cop in order to provide protection for his wife and child. Working for the anti-corruption taskforce led by the one person he can trust, Bunawar, he is given a mission to engage himself as an enforcer for a local mob boss, Bangun. Finding a way in through Bangun's son Uco, Rama must hunt for information linking Bangun with police force corruption. All the while, he harbors a dangerous and personal vendetta for revenge and justice that threatens to consume him- and bring both this mission and the organized crime syndicates crashing down.
On this follow up to his cult classic, Gareth Evans gets bold and takes "The Raid 2" and not only ramps up the action but also tries to hammer his frenetic quite often dizzying action esthetic into the mold of a large scale crime drama that while highly entertaining pushes the boundaries just a little farther then it probably should have been.
Evans opens us up to a larger world as Ram works his way up the ladder of the criminal underworld with the purpose of having it all come crashing down. There's no question that Evans is among the absolute best at staging extended action sequences and while we certainly get our fair share, we almost get too many. At times it really is an unabashed assault on the senses, Evans experiments, tries new camera angles and in a nearly twenty minute fight sequence that takes place in the rain in a prison courtyard he assaults our senses in an all out brawl that is one of the amazing sequences that we are treated too. It's all very impressive, but they do lack the charm and the immediacy of the first film that had all the action self contained in an apartment building.
As Evans builds this intricate criminal underworld, we can't help buy marvel at the hyper stylized set design and places he sets his drama and his action but we never really get a chance to take it all in. His high speed storytelling style feels a little forced in a narrative that is telling a very large scale story. I can totally appreciate what Evans is going for in this chapter of The Raid saga, but it all can't help but feel that a little bit of trimming and slowing the narrative down just a smidge could have helped make this something truly memorable.
From an acting standpoint it does all revolve around leading man and fight choreographer Iko Uwais who pulls double duty once again and anchors it all surprisingly well. No matter how much we get battered with this nonstop action, we still feel every punch and every kick that Ram takes and dishes out. The emotional stakes aren't really there, but we feel him go through hell and get the crap get kicked out of him along the way to his goal.
Ultimately, "The Raid 2" is a fascinating chapter in this story and while stylistically writer/director Gareth Evans may have stretched a little too far, there's no question that action fans will line up for whatever he does next. Quite simply because he holds the kind of promise that not all story tellers can live up to, because by any means necessary, he'll never be boring.
4 out of 5 stars.
"The Raid 2" is now playing at theatres all across the country, please check with your local listings for show times near you.