The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)

Rating: C+

Dir: Gareth Evans
Star: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo

About 50 minutes longer than its predecessor, I can’t help thinking that’s a major flaw, since what made The Raid so great was its unrelenting pace. It literally didn’t stop bringing the pain. This… Not so much. Uwais once against stars as Rama, whose mission this time is a long-term undercover mission, to get him embedded deep into the crime family run with an iron hand by Bangun (Pakusadewo). This requires him to be sent to prison, where he can buddy up to – and rescue – family scion Ico (Putra), then on release, accept an offer of employment.

From there, he can work his way up, and the higher he gets, the more he knows, not least about the ties between the gangsters and the cops. But, of course, the higher he gets, the further he has to fall. With Ico casting envious eyes at his father’s position, and prepared to do anything to take over, Rama soon finds himself teetering on the edge. Well, except it’s less “soon”, and more “not nearly soon enough for my tastes.” Between our hero getting out of jail, and Ico’s plan kicking in towards the end, this is actually fairly pedestrian, and exposes both the director and star’s weaknesses. Which is. to be honest, more or less everything when claw hammers aren’t being forcibly introduced to skulls.

The characters are your standard boilerplate types, e.g. undercover cop, honourable gangster, etc. and while it’s always hard to tell with foreign-language films, neither the dialogue nor Uwais’s delivery appear to be anything above mediocre. I’m reminded of nothing more than Yuen Wo Ping-directed Hong Kong films, which alternated painfully-bad comedy with exquisite fight scenes. For, make no mistake, the ass-kicking here kicks ass, in as many ways as the rest of it is flawed. A fight in the back seat of a car? check? A one-on-one brawl in a kitchen? Check? Let’s not forget the previously-mentioned Hammer Girl either. It’s all incredibly violent, but unlike its predecessor, which redefined “stripped to the bone,” the pauses here are less reflective, and more a chance to realize how flawed this is in comparison.