"In prison you'd be wise to pick a side. Loners don't tend to last long."
The anticipated sequel to Gareth Evans' Indonesian film, The Raid, lived up to expectations thanks to some fantastic action scenes and well choreographed fighting scenes (amongst the best I've seen on film). Iko Uwais is back in the lead role as Rama and the film picks up only a few hours after the events of the first movie. If you thought Rama was off the hook after fighting his way out of the building infected with criminals, then you were wrong because this time he has to go undercover and infiltrate the criminal underworld. In order to do so, first he must go to prison and win the confidence of Uco (played by Arifin Putra), the son of one of the most important Indonesian mafia bosses. Evans takes his time setting up the action and although the first hour and a half does contain some entertaining action sequences, it is nothing compared to the final 90 minute of the film. Uwais may not be as convincing as a dramatic actor, but he shines in every action scene he's in. I wasn't sure what direction Evans was going with this film at first, considering it had a rather slow build up, but once he got that out of the way there was plenty of room for fantastic action sequences. Unlike most Hollywood action films, Evans doesn't use so much editing and allows the action to flow uninterruptedly. There was too much shaky cam at times, but the fighting sequences were so well choreographed that it was impossible not to be in awe. My heart is still pumping really fast after those intense action scene, but be warned this film is not for everyone: there is a lot of graphic violence. At times I felt like I was watching a Refn film, less stylized of course but with a heavier narrative story. I was blown away with the second half of this film, but I did find the first half a bit slow and confusing. I only got to watch the dubbed version so that may have affected my overall experience with the dramatic scenes, but the action was perfectly executed.
I'm sure there won't be any other movie coming out this year that will top the action sequences in this movie. Evans knows how to deliver action and in the first Raid he was just getting warmed up because in The Raid 2 he delivers plenty of highly choreographed fighting sequences. Uwais is a star, but in this film we also got to meet plenty of other dangerous characters. Yayan Ruhian had played Mad Dog in the first film and he's back for the sequel but as a different character. An odd decision, but it was fun to get to watch this actor once again. The three villains Rama has to face off are also interesting. Of course all we know about them is that they are good fighters (there is no need for character development here). They have no name, but we identify them by their weapon of choice. Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman), Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle), and The Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman) who all prove to be worthy adversaries. The film is two and a half hours long but it is justified because the action scenes are done really well and there are several interesting characters as well. I didn't think I would enjoy this film as much as the first one considering I liked the constraints and tight spaces that the building provided in the original, and although here we have several locations, Evans still manages to direct the action in enclosed spaces such as inside vehicles, hallways, kitchens, and alleys. The film is ultra violent and the martial-arts action is unlike anything you've seen before. It may be too extreme and brutal, but it is great filmmaking nonetheless.