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Brutal violence filmed in an almost art-house style and drawn out way too long.
on May 15, 2015
Fans of the visceral original, especially of its extremely brutal violence, may find some enjoyment here as this movie if not exceeding “The Raid: Redemption” in brutality does exceed the former movie in gore. This sequel also exceeds its predecessor in one, maybe two, other detrimental ways: 1) the running time for this movie is horrendously long; it’s like a two-parter that they didn’t bother to break up and it makes for an arduous viewing experience. There’s only so much man-hates-man horror and violence that we can take before we just don’t care anymore. In the first terrifying and exciting movie the tremendous, harrowing violence and lack of disregard for human life were contained in a bleak death box high rise tenement and constricted by the usual time allotted to such a movie (approx. 1’35”). In “The Raid 2” we are drawn into multiple conflicts that cover a lot of ground and space splayed out over 2’30” with characters that feel they are supposed to be more important than they are not introduced until well over halfway through the film. Not only is it tiring but it becomes damn difficult to follow the plot at times, who’s killing who and why, and is there any clear resolution in sight? Having our hero go undercover because he has no real choice or having him contact briefly his wife and child a couple of times for mere snippets in such a long movie doesn’t serve to develop our sympathy for him very well. (2) Ever seen an “art house” movie? I’ve seen just a couple and the feeling they’ve engendered is a slightly altered and awed sense of reality in some way, making you cock your head and look at the cinematography and lighting and sets, and taking you out of the movie. There’s no way an hardcore violent movie like this should generate that type of response but there are so many scenes, so many sets, and lighting choices and extravagant or extravagantly muted colors (I’m looking at you muddy jail yard brawl scene) that take you out of the flow and moment of the picture. It’s sometimes gorgeous, but for all of the wrong reasons for a movie like this. It’s like the success of the first one made the filmmakers feel that they had to outdo themselves and spend lavish money on the production. It hurt this movie I’m afraid.
I really wanted to like this movie as I had really enjoyed the first Raid but was both surprised and disappointed with #2. But that doesn’t mean this movie won’t appeal to or be enjoyable for action and martial arts fans. There are a few very good fights in this movie but they’re not on level with the first one. There’s a good deal of tension embedded naturally in the plot. People who like shows about deep cover cops may enjoy the film more than people who watch it purely for martial arts and mano-y-mano action. Plus the sets and cinematography at times are really something to marvel at. The basic plot follows Rama, the survivor from the brutal tenement trap, being coerced into going undercover to break up a crime bosses house from the inside out. To get inside he protects the bosses son, Uco, in prison and saves him from being assassinated. What follows is a convoluted and overly long development of Uco wanting power and respect and not getting it from daddy so he teams up with another rival to gain more power. Rama has to protect Uco from Uco while protecting himself from Uco, Uco’s dad, and everyone else this side of Timbuktu. There are long bits of development without fights and the bad guys jaw at each other and jostle for position and make back room deals. This part of the movie is average. Uco, however, (played by Arifin Putra), is just the type of spoiled kid that you can love to hate and he has a great screen presence, similar I feel to the late Brandon Lee. The best fights are saved for the last 30-40”. You may ask how many times someone can be slashed and cut and stabbed before they die after one of the more grisly, prolonged fights but it’s also one of the more enjoyable fights of the movie because it’s so over-the-top. Still, I wish the filmmakers had taken on the less is more motto and there simply is too much here.