More than a year and a half ago, this column began with nothing but a dream and an indonesian action movie. Well, I’m proud to say that they’ve now made a sequel to that movie.
Before watching The Raid 2, I decided to re-watch the original and revisit my very first column with Rooster Illusion Reviews. I’ve seen The Raid a few time since I reviewed it, and I judged the film too harshly last time. Though the plot is thin and simple- it works. It’s not a bad plot, it’s just a simple one. And you know what? It’s a little refreshing. Not so many twists and turns, just a straightforward goal. And it does enough to keep you invested and string the action together. The Raid is ultimately the exact kind of fun that action films ought to be.
Now- on to the sequel. The Raid: Berandal picks up literally minutes after the first one ended: with Rama, the rookie cop protagonist, going into hiding after escaping the crime-infested apartment complex. After his brother, Andi, is executed- and in order to secure the protection of his family, Rama must go undercover with one of the ruling crime families and carve out the police corruption.
I had just got done talking about how simple-yet effective the plot of The Raid was; but The Raid 2 steps everything up. The plot? Complex and intriguing. The acting? Surprisingly improved (even the English dubbing). The action?
Oh, hell yes.
I praised the fight scenes in the original- and Berendal manages to out-do them. The choreography is phenomenally graceful and brutally visceral at the same time.
Also improved is the cinematography. In the original, the camera angles were much like the plot: simple, yet effective. This time around, though, the camera-work and cinematography is astoundingly beautiful and at times extraordinarily experimental.
It’s clear that the money and success of the first movie was funneled into a bigger script and better actors. Rama falls in with the ruling crime lord’s son, Uco, played wonderfully by Arifin Putra. The story is really Uco’s- with Rama along for the fighting. Uco’s arc is much like Macbeth‘s: overcome by unbridled ambition that ultimately leads to his downfall. In fact, four out of the five biggest characters don’t do anything but talk- and they’re really the big movers and shakers.
The movie does contain one of the best car chases I’ve ever seen. It includes a fight inside one car, and a fight between cars. And it involves a one-take shot that is nothing short of amazing: it goes from outside a car, in through the front window, through the interior, then out the back window- all while the car is traveling at full speed. And it involved the director of photography holding the camera on a moving dolly drifting backwards from a lead car, handing it off to a crew member disguised as a car seat, who passed it to another crew member in the back seat, and then finally handing it back to the DP who drifted to the back end of the car- all in one continuous take.
The Raid 2: Berandal is much more a thriller than it’s predecessor, and for me that’s both good and bad. It’s a good movie- but it feels only loosely connected to the first. In fact, in the first five minutes, every returning character besides Rama is either killed or shooed off-screen. And that’s really my biggest problem with it. It feels more like a spiritual sequel than a directly connected one. Personally, I prefer the smaller setting, scale, and plot of the original. But if you enjoyed the first movie- or you’re a lover of action and want to see some of the very best of modern kung fu- then you owe it to yourself to check this out. At least the English subtitles and voice dubbing are better in this, so we won’t get any more of these gems:
Anyway, now I’m going to shrivel up into a baby, Benjamin Button style so that my life can have book ends. Meanwhile, be sure to check out my science column: Trope-ic Thunder.
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