Review – The Raid 2: Berandal

Topping one of the most jaw-dropping action films in years is an unenviable challenge, but Gareth Evans has done just that with this savage and scintillating follow-up.

Evans has indicated a third and final chapter is on the way and for that we should count ourselves lucky - action movies simply do not come any better than this

Evans has indicated a third and final chapter is on the way and for that we should count ourselves lucky – action movies simply do not come any better than this

Evans announced himself in 2012 with The Raid: Redemption, a down-and-dirty Indonesian action flick that breathed new life not only into martial arts movies but action cinema as a whole.

Action is one of cinema’s most universal genres – its language is that of physicality rather than dialogue, which means foreign language pictures such as The Raid franchise often travel more easily and can find a bigger audience.

SWAT member turned undercover officer Rama (Iko Uwais) in The Raid 2

SWAT member turned undercover officer Rama (Iko Uwais) in The Raid 2

At their best, action movies transcend their genre trappings and become ballets of ballistic extreme. The Raid was one such picture, which not only made a name for Evans, but also for its hugely talented star Iko Uwais, who was working as a delivery man when Evans cast him in his cult debut feature Merantau (2009).

The two reunite for The Raid 2: Berandal (“thug” in Indonesian), which expands greatly on the scope of its predecessor and defines itself as an epic in every sense.

The film picks up where The Raid left off, with rookie special forces officer Rama (Uwais) having survived a near-suicidal ambush on a 15-storey tower block in order to take a brutal crime lord into custody. With his family’s lives in danger, he must infiltrate a deadly Jakarta crime syndicate and take down its leaders, as well as the police and politicians in its pocket.

The angry, embittered Uco (Arifin Putra) in The Raid 2

The angry, embittered Uco (Arifin Putra) in The Raid 2

A big reason why The Raid: Redemption worked so well was its confined setting – a single tower block full of bad guys up against Rama and a rag-tag bunch of fellow SWAT officers. From Berendal‘s first crane shot of nasty goings on in a nondescript field out of the city, Evans signals his intentions; the canvas is going to be much bigger this time, although the predominant colour is still going to be red.

The first reel disorientates the viewer by cutting between groups of characters and different time frames, but as the pieces fall into place what emerges is a clever introduction to the world we’re going to inhabit for the next 150 minutes.

Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) and Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) get ready for some ultraviolence in The Raid 2

Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) and Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) get ready for some ultraviolence in The Raid 2

Western cinema has long borrowed from the East and vice versa and Evans, a Welsh national living in Indonesia, brings a liberal dose of both styles to The Raid 2.

Uwais channels Bruce Lee’s kick-ass rage and Jackie Chan’s dogged tenacity into his leading man and the imprint of both of these screen legends can be found all over the film. Likewise, the gangland narrative, as unoriginal as it is, brings to mind The Godfather and Beat Takashi; the stylised violence inevitably invites comparisons to John Woo and Sam Peckinpah; while Rama’s infiltration of Bangun’s (Tio Pakusadewo) criminal enterprise nods to Infernal Affairs and its Western remake The Departed.

Just one of the jaw-dropping fight scenes in The Raid 2

Just one of the jaw-dropping fight scenes in The Raid 2

The Raid stood out from the competition thanks to its eye-popping fight scenes and Berandal ups the ante even further. A massive scrap early on in a muddy prison yard is an early standout and acts as a bone-snapping promise of what’s to come. An epic car chase/fight is masterfully handled, while the final act as Rama battles his way through increasingly bloodthirsty enemies – including the psychopathic ‘Hammer Girl’ (Julie Estelle, whose appearance is straight out of Kill Bill) and ‘Baseball Bat Man’ (Very Tri Yulisman playing the ultimate killer hoodie) – is as good as it gets. Indeed, the climatic duel between Rama and ‘The Assassin’ (Cecep Arif Rahman) is one of the most exhausting and engrossing fight scenes you’ll ever see.

With such a sizeable cast, it would be easy to lose track of certain characters, but Evans keeps the plates spinning and is rewarded with some effective performances from the likes of Yayan Ruhian as a vagabond assassin (which brings to mind Amores Perros‘ vagrant hitman) and Arifin Putra as Bangun’s impetuous son Uco.

Evans has indicated a third and final chapter is on the way and for that we should count ourselves lucky – action movies simply do not come any better than this.

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32 comments

  1. Writer Loves Movies · April 2, 2014

    Great review. Glad to hear this sequel lives up to its predecessor!

  2. le0pard13 · April 2, 2014

    Agreed. Mr. Evans is in his zone in staging some of the most jaw-dropping action/fight scenes. The knife work reminded me the stellar work of Korea’s films of late (i.e., The Man From Nowhere, A Company Man). It’s a tad too long for my taste. Bringing a number of lulls that didn’t necessarily help the plot along. A minor criticism for this film and talented filmmaker, though.

    • Three Rows Back · April 2, 2014

      Thanks very much for that insightful feedback. Regarding the length, I can see that. There was always one more fight just around the corner!

    • lintang · April 3, 2014

      I can’t wait to see The Raid 2. Unfortunately I live in a country that doesn’t have The Raid 2 screening. I have been a big fan of Gareth-Iko combo since their first movie “Merantau” in 2009 and I knew back then, with their talents they deserve international stardom.
      BTW, the Korean movie ‘The Man from Nowhere” knife work was also based on Silat, that’s why you see the similarity with the knife-based fighting in The Raid series.

      • le0pard13 · April 3, 2014

        That makes sense. Thanks for the info, lintang πŸ™‚

      • Three Rows Back · April 4, 2014

        That’s a shame. Thanks for the info about The Man fom Nowhere; will make sure to check that one out

  3. mikeyb @ screenkicker · April 2, 2014

    I adored The Raid so I can’t wait to see this. Gareth Evans is a real talent

  4. Joseph@thecinemamonster · April 3, 2014

    Fuck! Can this just come out where I live already! Damn! Great post, got me even more uncontrollably excited ;).

    • Three Rows Back · April 4, 2014

      Ha ha. Thanks Joseph, it’ll be well worth the wait believe me.

  5. ruth · April 3, 2014

    I’m too chicken to watch this given the extreme violence, I mean some critics call it an endurance test and all that. I really should muster up the courage one day even just to give support to the talents from my home country. I mean it’s so rare to see an Indonesian-related film getting universal acclaim. I so agree w/ you that action is one of cinema’s most universal genres, and this one is a testament that when done well, it could be almost iconic.

    • Three Rows Back · April 4, 2014

      The violence is pretty hardcore, although it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen by a long chalk. The Raid and its sequel are fantastic adverts for Indonesian cinema. Thanks for the feedback Ruth πŸ™‚

  6. Nick Powell · April 3, 2014

    God I cannot wait to see this!!! So jealous you got to see it but even more excited about hearing your thoughts!!

    • Three Rows Back · April 4, 2014

      Thanks buddy. I managed to see an early screening and I was *not* disappointed as you can tell!

  7. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · April 3, 2014

    Wonderful! I’ve so been looking forward to this and I’m so glad it’s a worthy follow up. Fantastic review Mark, you’ve got me super pumped for this!

    • Three Rows Back · April 4, 2014

      It’s wicked, pure and simple mate. One of my films of the year already.

  8. jjames36 · April 10, 2014

    Wow. You make this sound pretty fantastic. Perhaps I’ll give both ‘Raid’ movies a shot at some point!

    • Three Rows Back · April 20, 2014

      You absolutely should buddy. They are well, well worth it I assure you.

  9. Ayush Chandra · April 10, 2014

    really nyc and detailed review by threerowsback.com, thx soo much….

  10. Tom · April 16, 2014

    Good stuff again Mark, I haven’t seen either of these but keep hearing things about it. Sounds like an action film that I must get my hands on, though I should probably start at the starting line with The Raid: Redemption. πŸ™‚

    • Three Rows Back · April 20, 2014

      Yeah, it’s best you start with the first one, although it’s not essential actually. If you like action cinema (and who does’t?) you’ll love this Tom. I promise!

  11. contentforyou1254 · April 17, 2014

    Have never seen the first one, but I think I will take a look now

    • Three Rows Back · April 20, 2014

      Glad to hear it my friend. Let me know what you think when you do.

  12. Victor De Leon · April 17, 2014

    Good job! Can’t wait to catch this. I am a big fan of the first. Thanks! πŸ™‚

    • Three Rows Back · April 20, 2014

      Cheers Vic. If you liked the first the second will blow your mind!

  13. Pingback: The Raid 2: Berandal (2014) Review | Tim's Film Reviews
  14. Tim The Film Guy · July 5, 2014

    Great review. Such a great expansive sequel and its a real shame more people didnt see it. Still we liked it πŸ˜€

    • Three Rows Back · July 5, 2014

      Cheers Tim. Thanks again for the mention on your site mate πŸ™‚

  15. Pingback: Review – Mad Max: Fury Road | three rows back

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