Combustible Celluloid
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With: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura
Written by: Gareth Evans
Directed by: Gareth Evans
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language
Language: Indonesian, Japanese, and English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 150
Date: 04/04/2014

The Raid 2 (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fleet Fighter

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Raid 2 takes place just after the end of The Raid: Redemption (2012), barely giving poor Rama (Iko Uwais) any time to rest. What's more is that he has suddenly been promoted from rookie cop to undercover cop. His task is to infiltrate a prison, befriend Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of the boss of the biggest crime family in Indonesia.

Rama rescues Uco from an assassination attempt, leading to an incredible brawl in a muddy prison yard. Upon their release, Uco gets Rama a job, and Rama meets the old man, Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo). Feared and respected, Bangun has run his operation without bloodshed for years. Unfortunately, there's trouble brewing. The hotheaded Uco wants more responsibility, and dad isn't ready to give it to him, and so Uco may just be ready to do something drastic.

Some bad guys take advantage of this, giving Uco the push he needs to start an all-out battle, which, in turn, allows Rama to do his thing. The Welsh director Gareth Evans, who works in Indonesia, alongside Uwais, create several incredible fight sequences the likes of which are rarely seen in the United States. Evans establishes a specific working space, like the muddy prison yard, or a tiered nightclub, a warehouse, or a fancy restaurant kitchen, and uses every conceivable angle, corner, impediment, or object that could possibly contribute to a fight. There's even an amazing car chase with a fight between three men in a back seat.

Each fight is a thing of brutal beauty, so clear and kinetic that we can feel the fight; we can tell it hasn't been cheated or fixed by editing and sound effects. This is the exact opposite of American fight scenes, which have no content and are covered up by shaky-cam work.

The fights are what really make The Raid 2 worth watching, since we've all seen this kind of undercover cop story before. Although, to Evans' credit, he stretches the story out to a full two-and-a-half hours, which allows for a few extra moments here and there between characters, deepening their relationships and establishing a sense of history.

There have been too many generations of fighters hoping to be the "next Bruce Lee," and I won't claim that Uwais is him, but I will say that I'm very much looking forward to The Raid 3, or whatever this duo decides to take on next.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released a very fine Blu-ray edition, highlighting the movie's wonderfully clear, amazing action sequences. Director Evans provides a commentary track (in English), and there's a long post-screening interview with the director, star, and composer. The disc also includes three featurettes about the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts, a cool deleted scene, and trailers. There's also a digital copy for those so inclined.

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