The Raid 2 makes a strong case that it’s no longer possible for a film to get an NC-17 rating based on violence alone. After all, if any film were to receive the MPAA’s so-called “rating of doom” it would be for this martial-arts/action-thriller in which blood splatters, heads explode and bones break with such a sickening crunch – and in such graphic fashion — that it may test even the stomachs of the most hardened action and violence fans.
By the way, as ridiculous and hypocritical as it may sound, the only footage removed from the earlier, unrated cut of the film shown at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival for this “wider,” R-rated theatrical release (which has gone from 150 minutes to 148 minutes in the process) was strictly sexual in nature. All of its ultra-violent content is preserved for posterity and for general consumption.
Now, that’s meant not to come down on the film for showing violence in several forms, or in such graphic detail. If anything, filmmaker Gareth Evans is simply escalating the violence as a sort of “tribute” to earlier movie predecessors. Quentin Tarantino’s two Kill Bills are clearly referenced/homaged, as are the original Oldboy, the movies of Sam Peckinpah, the Infernal Affairs films (which served as the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s The Departed) and the earlier Hong Kong thrillers made by John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam (particularly the A Better Tomorrow movie trilogy).
If you’re able to withstand its extreme assault on your senses (at least visually), the thrilling, action-packed film is definitely worth a look. It’s definitely not boring, and, if nothing else, it’s fascinating to see the progression of two promising cinematic careers (those of Evans and star Iko Uwais), and to use the film as a thesis for where other movies may go with violent content in the future.
The simply titled Raid 2 Picks up the story shortly after the events seen in the first Raid (also known by its Redemption subtitle in the United States). Tough-as-nails, incorruptible rookie cop Rama (Uwais) has survived the ill-fated police raid on a gangster-infested high rise and brought down criminals and tainted police officials in the process.
Unfortunately for him, he’s made a lot of enemies by doing so, among both the criminal underworld and the more “legitimate” movers-and-shakers in Jakarta. An internal affairs police chief, Bunawar (Cok Simbara), promises to protect Rama and his family if he’ll help root out any remaining bad weeds within the force.
So he’s sent to prison for the beating of the son of a politically connected crook. The hopes are, when Rama gets inside, he’ll befriend Uco (Arifin Putra), who’s got connections. Uco’s father is Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo), who runs a good half of Jakarta’s criminal enterprises.
And when Rama is finally released from incarceration, he’s offered a position within Bangun’s organization. However, he once again finds himself between a rock and a hard place: in the middle of what appears to be a gang war of sorts, between Bangun and Japanese Yakuza, which was set in motion by Uco.
It’s densely plotted to be sure, sometimes even a little murky and perplexing, especially for those who didn’t see the first film. (And as nice as it is to see martial artist/actor Yayan Ruhian, who played Redemption’s diminutive baddie-so-bad-you-loved-to-hate-him, it’s confusing to see him in a different role here.)
Still, that’s a minor quibble for a film that has so much of everything for fans of action thrillers. Hand-to-hand combat? Check. Gun battles? Check. Car chases? Check. And all are done with Evans’ already trademark style, which is to say, with great flourish. (He evens betters Oldboys’ hammer fight in a way that has to be seen to be believed.)
And while it would be easy to compliment Uwais for his martial-arts moves and criticize him for his stoic presence, he shows more in the way of an actual performance this time around. He’s especially good in one tricky scene in which Rama breaks protocol and “radio silence” to check on the status of his wife and young child.
Jeff Michael Vice can also be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (www.thegeekshowpodcast.com), and can be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (www.facebook.com/BigMovieMouthOff).