More deeply plotted, far broader in it scope and longer than its predecessor, The Raid 2 eventually offers the same demented thrills as the first film but feels like a far stronger film. Whilst the pared down nature of the first film meant it could be summed up as “Man fights his way out of criminal infested tower block”, this is harder to pigeon hole – it’s closer in tone to the early John Woo films, far more concerned with the nature of loyalty between men on the opposite sides of the criminal divide than pure visceral motives. If the film has one weakness it’s that it possibly asks a little too much of its star in terms of acting – moody and pensive he can do, anything deeper is sometimes problematic – but this is the films only flaw.
Before we go any further it’s necessary to put one caveat on anyone considering seeing this film – it is quite possibly the most violent film I’ve seen, not only in intensity (the final hour is almost non-stop) but also in the way that it details the destruction of the human body – imagine if David Cronenberg directed Kung-fu films to begin to comprehend the body horrors on display. The first nervous laughter began at the ten minute mark, after about twenty minutes the first people walked out. Come the end at least a dozen people had left, this is a film that takes no prisoners in its approach to violence so be warned.
Despite this (and perhaps even because of it) this is a film to be seen on as big a screen as possible. He The broader scope allows for breathing space between the astonishing action scenes and for greater involvement with the characters. Come the end of the film our sympathies lie with many (despite their faults) as the true nature of the treachery against them is established. It’s not terribly complicated in its plotting, but it does require you to engage your brain in a way that the first film didn’t which does enrich it as an experience.
However, this is a sequel to The Raid that we’re discussing and it lives or dies on the strength of its action scenes. Fortunately it delivers with gusto, the added breadth of the plot being matched by the scope of the action. The martial arts scenes are more inventive, whilst the city offers a wider canvas they are often in cramped conditions to increase the sense of tension and claustrophobia, trapping the audience in the situation and almost forcing you to instinctively hold your breath. A car chase near the end is still leaving me wondering how they managed to film it as the camera swoops in and out of cars as the action takes place in multiple locations. Even when the film tightens its environment it feels as if the camera is experimenting – a prison riot shot as a grey / brown tableau from above, the dirty greens of a pornographic film set, nothing is static and the environment plays as much part in the action. The star Iko Kwais remains a force of nature to watch, his face permanently set to scowl (but also clearly showing the trauma of his ordeal) as he bruises and batters (and is bruised and battered) through an unending tide of opponents. The final scene adds the delicious possibility of more before simply ending with a “no”. There’s a sense that a third and final part is needed to resolve this story fully.
Does it need to be seen at the cinema? Yes, the sheer demented scale of the endeavour is likely to impress, and whilst the violence is often stomach churning, the invention and skill behind its delivery never fails to astonish. The films absolutely tanked in the States but hopefully the studio will see beyond the numbers and offer us the final film – it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.
Highly recommended for those with the stomach for it.