17:00 - 26th June 2014, by David West

The Raid 2

The hype around Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais' follow-up to their breakout smash The Raid has been building ever since the sequel was announced. On one level, The Raid 2 lives up to the hype by delivering a cascade of brutally violent action scenes, but the film uses mayhem and gore in place of drama and character. This time around, super tough cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is sent undercover to infiltrate the criminal empire headed by Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo), which he achieves by befriending the kingpin's son Uco (Arifin Putra) in prison and saving him from an assassination attempt. Bangun's organisation observes a carefully maintained truce with a Japanese yakuza syndicate headed by Goto (Kenichi Endo), but with the ambitious upstart Bejo (Alex Abbad) egging him on, Uco decides to seize power for himself.

The Raid 2 might be the most violent action film ever made. People are stabbed, maimed, burnt, beaten with baseball bats and hammers, and mangled with fists and feet. Rama is a ripping and tearing human tornado of hurt, but, despite all the brutality he dispenses, he is almost entirely passive in dramatic terms. At no point does Rama makes a decision that affects the course of the plot - instead, he goes from one bone-breaking encounter to the next while the actions of Uco, Bejo and Bangun move the story forward. However many people he beats up, there is still a gap at the centre of the film where Rama's personality should be.

As for the much lauded action scenes, they are impressive for their sheer speed and ferocity, but any fan of Hong Kong action movies of the 1980s will know this is not the pinnacle of stuntman craft. There is nothing here to top the vehicular stunts in Police Story, the final reel of Eastern Condors, the slugfests between Jackie Chan and Benny Urquidez in Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever, Donnie Yen's work in Tiger Cage 2, or the best of John Woo and Ringo Lam. By way of comparison, there are scenes in Woo's Hard Boiled and The Raid 2 when someone is shot in the head at point blank range. In Hard Boiled, Woo keeps the camera on his leading man Chow Yun-Fat's face, capturing the emotions boiling within the character as he makes the decision to pull the trigger. In The Raid 2, Evans goes for a long shot to emphasise the brains and blood splattering all over the floor. The emotions of the shooter are not of interest, just the chance for another moment of gore.

Supporting characters are identified by their fighting gimmicks, with two characters listed in the credits as Baseball Bat Man and Hammer Girl. The film is resolutely grim in tone, with just a brief flash of gallows humour towards the end. This is matched by the dark, depressive colour palette of the photography and set design, and the movie cries out for something to vary the mood. Otherwise, the relentless carnage just feels exhausting.

Bring a strong stomach to The Raid 2, particularly when Hammer Girl gets busy. Evans, Uwais and their stunt team deserve credit for inventiveness, but their taste for excess means that this feels more like a horror movie than an action film.
SCORE: 3/5
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