How much is too much? That's a question you may ask yourself while watching The Raid 2 (or The Raid: Berandal), a sequel to the cult hit that redefined the fight scene for a generation raised on PG-13 action movies. When director Gareth Evans introduced his sequel at its Sundance Film Festival premiere, he joked that we were seeing it before the MPAA had a chance to freak out and demand cuts. And so this unrated cut -- all 140-something minutes of it -- features some of the most brutal and badass fight sequences I've ever seen. If The Raid is near the top of your list in terms of favorite action movies, then start carving out a spot at the top for The Raid 2 because this sucker is going to rip your guts out with a hammer.
The biggest criticism of The Raid was that it felt sort of like fight porn, with all this violence attached to a very simple story about a cop fighting his way through a building a baddies. For the sequel, Evans injects a whole ton more story, but oddly enough it's the story that's the problem yet again. Picking up right after the events of The Raid, Rama (Iko Uwais) is in a difficult spot following his bad-guy massacre. Knowing how many people will want him dead, Rama is offered a chance to protect himself and his family by going undercover inside a prison to try to get close to a crime boss' son and, eventually, use that relationship to catch crooked cops on the take.
Unfortunately for Rama, his prison sentence goes from a couple of months to a couple of years, but in that time he manages to fight his way into a spot close to the guy he needs to be friends with, and when he gets out he's rewarded for his allegiance with a spot as an enforcer for the big boss. This boss, however, is one of three crime boss' all jockeying for position in the city. And while there was an agreement of peace between them, it doesn't take long for things to go completely off the rails, leading to an all-out turf war.
Naturally this almost three-hour action movie is stacked with fight sequences, each growing more extreme. From beautifully shot fights in a prison yard full of mud to one of the craziest car-chase sequences in recent memory, this film delivers the sort of action that no one else is doing right now. It's just flat-out crazy stuff. The fight scenes are so good, in fact, that you really feel the film slow down when it tries to inch its way through a somewhat convoluted plot.
And that's not so much of a knock against the film because it's so successful with its action sequences that they completely overshadow the story. For some, that's rad. You'll have an incredibly goofy time cheering on what may just be the bloodiest and nuttiest fights you've ever seen on-screen, as well as crazy characters like Hammer Girl, a deaf female who uses two hammers as weapons, and Baseball-Bat Man, who uses a baseball bat to great comedic effect.
For others, though, it may be too much. It's bloody and nasty and so excessive that you need to be a specific type of fan to really enjoy it all. Director Gareth Evans is easily the best action director working today, and while ridiculously brutal, his action sequences go beyond anything anyone else is doing, especially in Hollywood. This is the real deal. The good stuff, as they say. Evans just needs to find a more seamless way to balance story with action in the third film (which is set up at the end of the second) in order to get audiences to invest in both equally. As it stands this is a series that's still all about its gnarly fight sequences, and if that's what you're in it for, get ready cause this sucker punches hard.
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