One of the more enduring types of films are the ones which take a simple concept, yet add heart and passion to the work.
Movies like “Ip Man” work so well because they don’t try to add in an enriching story or flashy effects. “Ip Man” stands out above most other martial arts movies because it sticks to what it knows and draws the audience in with the main character’s love for his family and work. These types of movies don’t have much depth to them, but they don’t need to.
Another recent film to do just that was “The Raid: Redemption” a martial arts film out of Indonesia that offered up a simple premise: A group of cops storm a large apartment complex filled with attendees hopped up on drugs, in an attempt to get the gang leader at the top of the building.
What made “The Raid” work so well was the stunning and well-choreographed action sequences, with each fight feeling wholly unique. On top of that, there is doubt amongst the cops as to who is corrupt and working for the gangs. Yet there is no doubt that the lead character, Rama (Iko Uwais), is straight and is fighting solely for his wife and unborn son.
“The Raid” very quickly gained a cult following and is now been hailed as one of the best martial arts films in decades. Naturally, the popularity has not gone unnoticed and has led to a sequel, “The Raid 2.” Going in, I expected more of the fun stuff that made the first film so enjoyable. Imagine my surprise when I found “The Raid 2” was so different from the first, yet just as entertaining.
Directly following the events of the first film, Rama has decided to purge the city of all its corrupt cops and gang leaders. To do so, he must now go undercover and infiltrate the Jakarta crime syndicate by befriending the son of the biggest mob boss, Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo). This includes going to jail and protecting his son, and later becoming a hired body guard for the family, all while learning that the son, Uco (Afrin Putra), no longer wishes to live in his fathers’ shadow and make a name for himself, even if that means destroying everything his father has built.
“The Raid 2” differs from its predecessor by its detailed focus on the story of Rama and the Bangun crime family. The story of “The Raid: Redemption” was basic and to the point, never adding in anything that was not necessary. The new film takes the time to develop the relationships between Bangun and Uco, and even on rival gangs and how they plan to overthrow Bangun’s empire.
The fighting is still as excellent as it was in the first film, with each fight contributing something different. The stand out fights here are ones that involve a rival gangs top assassins fighting Rama, with each assassin having a different quirk. One always has his hood up and likes to fight with a metal baseball bat and has befriended a deaf girl who loves to dual-wield hammers.
One of the more standout characters is a Bangun hired assassin, nicknamed ‘Koso (Yayan Ruhian). He has spent the last fifteen years working as the go-to source for killing, but he doesn’t do it for the money or the thrill, but because it was the only way he knew to provide for his son. Though due to his profession, he could never see his wife or family and was forced to live on the streets as a bum.
This tragedy eventually leads to an extended action sequence with ‘Koso fighting over a hundred guys in a night club with any weapons he can find, including beer bottles, tables and throwing guys off of the second floor.
Many more moments in “The Raid 2” stick out to me than from “The Raid” because of the distinct characters and their fighting styles. There weren’t many people that stood out in the first film, because it was much more about the martial arts. This time around, there is a bigger focus on the story of Rama and his need for vengeance in his city.
The motivations of each characters seems justified and no one is so over the top to the point of being ridiculous. It is just the right amount of drama and tension to make the action sequences have plenty of weight and strength to them.
Final Grade: A-