The Raid: Redemption from two years ago was quite the surprise. A martial arts film with crazy-ass stunt work but the story was so simple the acting never needed to be called into question. They simply leapt from one fight to the next. The Raid 2 is a bit more complex but it added an hour as to not take away from the fighting.
The story behind Raid 2 has Rama (Iko Uwais) going undercover to gain the trust of a mob boss’s son. The mobs all have corrupt officers in their pockets but if Rama can do his job well, he can root out all the bad cops in Jakarta. Rama doesn’t want to do it but the super secret Jakartan police convince him by guaranteeing his family’s safety. But they’re not super honest either. They tell him it’ll be a few months. I mean, they’re the good guys but no one is going to volunteer if they know it’s going to be several years. There are some good fight scenes in jail but we then get a cut scene which says “TWO YEARS LATER” which unintentionally made me laugh.
So here’s the real core of the film and why Rama had to go undercover. There are three factions which run the city’s underground. The Indonesians are headed by Bangun (Tio Prakusodewo) with his son Uco (Arifin Putro) and right hand man Eka (Oka Antara.) The Japanese are headed by Goto (Kenichi Endo) and his son Keiichi (Ryuhei Matsuda). And there’s Bejo (Alex Abbad) who runs the newcomer Arabian faction. Bejo’s group was in charge of the complex run by Tama in the last film. Now the Indonesians and the Japanese have had a 10 year truce and are powerful enough they don’t see any threat in the Arabs. The issue is Uco wants more control. He has total first world problems. He doesn’t want everything simple and just handed to him. He want’s to kill and maim and fight. He has fires and he wants to be feared, not respected. So he does what he thinks is best for him.
Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog in the first film) returns as Koso, an assassin who is very loyal to Bangun and fought with him back in the old days. Call me racist but I started thinking there were more recast-return rolls, especially the Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman,) the big boss of the fight scenes who I thought might have been Joe Taslim (Sgt. Jaka from the Raid.) Because of who dies and who died in The Raid I thought that casting would have been particularly clever.
If you like martial arts movies see The Raid 2. Was it better than The Raid: Redemption? No. The fights, while often on a much larger scale, got watered down a bit. When facing multiple foes, most fight scenes had the “wait and see” approach which is instead of everyone rushing the person at once they each wait and see how the guy before them does before attacking. This is sort of a fight scene standard with multiple opponents but it was often filmed as to show off the guys waiting their turns.
Also the story was a bit too complex. There are comparisons to Infernal Affairs/The Departed but those were character driven pieces involving bonding and loyalty whereas Rama sort of clams up as a no nonsense, very boring guy once he’s undercover. The only emotion he shows is when he’s on the phone. Yayan’s character feels like he was added as an afterthought. He could have been Eka and still done the same stuff. Though I suppose if you’ve got a guy that fights that well (and he did) what do you need Rama for? Still, all of the fight scenes are great.
BTW: did anyone else see Taylor Swift making cameos on SNL and the MTV Movie Awards? “You’re getting really upset and whenever a man shows emotion, I appear!”