Action Crime

Bone-Crunching Film Review: The Raid 2: Berandal

April 11, 2014Ben MK

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Just when he thought he was out... they pull him back in

By Ben Mk

When Iko Uwais' character — a SWAT officer named Rama — emerged bloodied and bruised at the end of 2011's The Raid: Redemption, he thought it was all over. Having just punched, kicked, stabbed and shot his way out of an apartment complex populated by drug dealers, gangsters and killers — rooting out a few corrupt cops in the process — the rookie had seen more bloodshed and carnage that most seasoned officers. But as it turns out, it was only the beginning. Now Rama is going undercover to try to put a stop to the corruption once and for all. And what he faces in The Raid 2: Berandal makes getting out of that infamous Jakartan apartment building look like a cake walk.

For those who haven't seen the first film, you've just read all the information you need to enjoy The Raid 2: Berandal. The film doesn't get bogged down in any of the plot points of its predecessor, though it does feel like a natural extension of it. Berandal picks up the storyline a mere two hours after the conclusion of Redemption, but it quickly moves on from there. After being informed by fellow cop Bunawar (Cok Simbara) that the corruption he encountered in the first film was just the tip of the iceberg — and that he and his family would never again be safe otherwise — Rama agrees to help expose just how high up the corruption goes, by bringing down the city's double-dealing police commissioner, Reza (Roy Marten). But to do so, he needs to get the inside track on Reza by going straight to the source.

And so Rama — going by the alias Yuda — leaves his wife and infant son behind and enters Jakarta's prison system, where he hopes to make fast friends with Uco (Arifin Putra), the interned son of criminal kingpin Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), whom Bunawar suspects of lining Reza's pockets. But maybe "fast" isn't the operative word, because it takes Rama two long years before he sees any payoff. During that time, he spends his nights alone in his cell honing his skills as a lethal killing machine (by punching craters into his cell walls with his bare fists) and his days unleashing those skills on inmates who choose to test his mettle. In one spectacular fight sequence involving dozens of prisoners and guards in the prison's muddy courtyard, Rama saves Uco's life; and so Uco returns the favor upon Rama's release, by setting him up with a job in Bangun's criminal organization.

With room and board (as well as anything else he needs) taken care of by Bangun, all Rama needs to do is maintain the fiction of his alter ego. That includes playing the part of "debt collector" and accompanying Uco — and Eka (Oka Antara), Bangun's consigliore — on visits to different corners of the criminal underworld, to collect protection money. But it's not long before Rama finds himself caught in the middle of something much, much bigger. Growing increasingly dissatisfied with how his father runs the family business, Uco plans to stir the pot by upheaving the fragile, ten-year-long truce between Bangun's crime syndicate and the rival Japanese Goto clan. He forms an alliance with a third faction, led by up-and-coming crime lord Bejo (Alex Abbad), who uses the deadly tactics of the assassins under his employ — including "Hammer Girl" (Julie Estelle), her brother, "Baseball Bat Man" (Very Tri Yulisman), and "The Assassin" (Cecep Arif Rahman) — to pit each side against the other. Soon, no-holds-barred, all-out gang warfare erupts on the streets of Jakarta; and Rama is forced to fight — not just because of his duties as an officer of the law, but to survive.

From fisticuffs to car and motorcycle stunts, the broad scope of the frenetic action in Berendal is a far cry from the claustraphobically enclosed set pieces of Redemption; and by that same token, so too does the sequel's sprawling storyline stand in comparison to the plot of the original. Writer/director Gareth Evans succeeds in creating a grounded and convincing world for his characters to play in — one where the increasingly operatic movements of the plot revolve around the ongoing power struggle between competing crime families — and it serves as the perfect counterpoint to the action, which is over-the-top (in the best way possible) in every respect. But with the sequel upgrading Rama's status from a badass SWAT officer to an even more badass, one-man wrecking machine — who dishes out beatings at lightning speeds and absorbs punishment like no ordinary human could — there comes a point where even the audience's belief in his nearly-superhuman abilities reaches its breaking point.

And so to fill the film's lengthy running time (which is all but completely comprised of wall-to-wall action), Evans spreads the action beats around, giving each of the film's new players their own memorably bloody scenes, in which they get to wield their weapons of choice — ranging from a hammer and a baseball bat to a machete and kerambit knives — and wreak havoc on their woefully undermatched opponents. It results in many a spectacularly imaginative and violent sequence; and they're executed with a Tarantino-esque flare, making the film feel like an ode to Kill Bill at times — especially considering the quantities of gore involved. Bloodshed is the name of the game; and in Berendal, people meet all sorts of gruesome ends. Pickaxes to the skull? Check. Hammer claws to the throat? Check. Baseball bats to the face, machete blades straight through the chest and shotgun blasts point-blank to the head? Check, check and double check. You could even make a drinking game out of every time someone has a limb savagely broken, but then you'd be passed out drunk by the end of the first act.

The Bottom Line

At two-and-a-half hours long, The Raid 2: Berandal packs in significantly more story and racks up a higher body count than its predecessor. And it's also infinitely more enjoyable. Bursting at the seams with insane stuntwork, vicious action and gory violence, writer/director Gareth Evans leaves no stone unturned when it comes to showcasing the full brutality of the film's numerous fight scenes; but he doesn't discount the characters and the storyline either, which form the glue that holds everything together. It's that kind of attention to detail that makes this sequel as satisfying as it is; and it's what will keep moviegoers coming back for more, when Evans and company return with the inevitable The Raid 3[★★★★]

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