Raid reigns once again

Beat-em-up sequel is action-movie perfection

The Raid: Redemption set a new standard for onscreen martial arts carnage with its wall-to-wall bone-crushing bloodbath that was as the promotional tagline called it “One Minute of Romance. Ninety-nine Minutes of Non-Stop Carnage.” The advance screening I attended was missing subtitles but it didn’t matter — the film is violent action distilled. It also introduced audiences to pencak silat an Indonesian martial arts style that’s a lightning fast flurry of fists elbows and kicks.

Part 2 avoids the common sequel trap of just repeating the first film by opening up the story into a fully fledged crime saga sort of like a martial arts version of Martin Scorsese’s Casino . (There are a few scenes that reference that underrated gangster flick.) This Raid is even bigger bolder and bloodier than the first an exhausting two-and-a-half hours of exquisite violence.

The movie really does necessitate having seen the first film but here’s a brief recap: in Part 1 an elite team of cops is tasked with taking down a high-rise building home to a bloodthirsty ruthless gang. The team quickly finds themselves woefully unmatched and only super cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is left standing. Part 2 picks up immediately afterwards with Rama reeling from the severe beat-down he received in the first film. After some lingering characters are quickly jettisoned an internal affairs agent presents Rama with a new assignment sussing out corrupt cops within an organized crime gang.

Rama needs to infiltrate the gang so his superiors toss him in jail in the hopes that he’ll secure some dastardly credentials. His superiors give him the shaft and a few months’ fake sentence turns into a couple of agonizingly long and bitter years.

The film is loaded with plot details — double-crosses rival gangs hidden motives — but none of it feels unnecessary or complicated. Much like the awesome Hong Kong crime trilogy Infernal Affairs (which in turn inspired The Departed ) the film traffics in just the right amount of intrigue at its best integrating the epic fight scenes seamlessly into the story.

As Rama gets deeper into the criminal underworld his life quickly unravels amongst the widespread corruption and ceaseless violence. The film piles one epic sequence on top of another. By the end you’ll be drained and exhausted. Like the first film Part 2 relies on the virtuoso skills of the film’s star Uwais who again pulls off the rare double feat of being both a stunning martial artist and genuine actor.

Director Gareth Evans proves again how skilled he is at crafting balletic violence with a bit of soul. The fighting is lightning quick and intricately choreographed but doesn’t appear incomprehensible or mindless. (Unless you think this kind of movie is mindless to begin with.) That said however many will find the film far too violent to sit through. One of the film’s best sequences a prison riot set in a muddy courtyard is one of the most eye-popping brutally violent things I’ve ever seen — and it’s in the first 30 minutes. (Let me again mention that the film is two-and-a-half hours long.)

This Raid is a lot lovelier to look at too rich with muted blues greens and greys. Unlike the first film Part 2 is much wider in scope taking time to explore vast lush landscapes and withered hollow buildings. The film’s influences are much more obvious too including a character uncannily like Peter Sellers’ insane Dr. Strangelove and a nifty homage to Twin Peaks . If it sounds like Evans is tossing in everything but the kitchen sink he sort of is. The result is action-movie perfection.