The first thing you notice about Raid 2 is that unlike its brilliant predecessor, this film is not going to be a claustrophobic action film based in one location over a very short period of time. Instead, Raid 2 spans over years, months, and weeks as we see Rama played by Iko Uwais being quickly recruited to infiltrate one of the ‘ruling’ gangs in Jakarta in order to weed out the corrupt police officials.
Unfortunately, although the change in pace and a strong dramatic storyline is welcomed, the film falters because of these very reasons. There is too much unnecessary drama, and with a number of characters being given screen time for one reason or another, we see less of Rama with more focus being given on the story line which in turn is clichéd. Raid 2 is a gangster flick, but certainly not one that will be remembered for that aspect. The idea of warring gangs, miscellaneous back stabbings, father-son tension, everything has long been seen in gangster films as nothing seems original; in-fact on the contrary it is very predictable. There is also a hint of style over substance where certain characters are brought in just as an excuse to throw in another fight sequence that doesn’t necessarily take the story forward.
So, then what makes the film likeable? Just as the case was with the first film, it is once again the breathtaking action sequences, of which there are quite a few, that save the day. Gareth Evans realizes that his team has one trump card, and that is the phenomenal fights they can give him. He capitalizes on that by having fight sequences in different locations, under different scenarios, with different weather as a backdrop, and by going one step further and bringing in other elements like guns (much more than the first film) and cars to accelerate these fights.
There are a number of sequences that stand out; the car chase leaves you on the edge of your seat, and while the Hammer-girl (Julie Estelle) fights are a little reminiscent of Kill Bill and Oldboy rolled into one, it still makes you cringe and excited at the same time. Most of the action sequences involving Rama, especially the last half hour which comprises of a kitchen fight scene that left me breathless, are simply a pleasure to watch and admire. Although a few of the scenes feature handheld shaky camera action, it is a minor point that can be easily looked over when you see the big picture, even though the gore and blood that is overdone in some places is hard to forget and might be a little too much for the faint hearted.
Evans also brings in some of his old favourites from the first film, primarily Yayan Ruhian who played the much appreciated Mad Dog in The Raid, albeit as a different, almost unrecognizable, new character, but gives him a couple of fights to showcase his talent.
The Raid 2: Berandal deserves credit for trying to do something different from the first film. Regrettably, when it tries to be an undercover cop film, it fails at that, and then it fails as a gangster film also, but think of it purely in terms of action and it will surely give you your money’s worth.