The Raid: Berandal

Directed By: Gareth Evans

Starring: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, and Kazuki Kitamura

Applause is a memorable thing in a movie theater.  In a place where silence is golden, it's the rarest of signs of utter amazement and respect for what an audience has just witnessed on the big screen.  I reflect on films like The Dark Knight, The Avengers, and Moonrise Kingdom and remember the applause that came as the credits began rolling for each film.  What's even more memorable, however, is applause that comes in the midst of a movie.  There are two films in my recent memory where this has happened — Blue is the Warmest Color and The Raid: Redemption.  I'll never forget when my audience for the French love film erupted into applause after an intense, vigorous sex scene between Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.  I'll also never forget the raucous round of applause in The Raid after the epic fight between Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian.  Having seen The Raid 2: Berandal, I've got a lingering feeling of déjà vu.

Thanks to the cooperation of police commissioner Reza (Roy Marten), there are two families that run the city of Jakarta — local kingpin Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo) and Japanese crime boss Goto (Kenichi Endo).  After the events of The Raid: Redemption, it's clear to rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) that the Jakarta police force is overdue for a cleanup.  Though no one knows who he is or what took place inside that apartment complex just a few short hours ago, they will soon know, and everyone he holds dear will be in grave danger.  Rama is a dead man walking.  However, this doesn't have to happen.  Bunawar (Cok Simbara), the head of Jarkarta's anti-corruption task force, offers Rama an opportunity to go undercover and uncover the corrupt underbelly of the police department.  He'll re-train the rookie cop and give him the skills to do what they need him to do when they need it.  In return, Bunawar will make sure Rama's wife and son are safe.  Meanwhile, Rama's brother is executed by small-time crook Bejo (Alex Abbad).

Rama accepts Bunawar's offer, and learns what it really entails — doing time in prison.  Bunawar convinces Rama to get himself arrested.  His mission is to get close to a fellow inmate named Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of crime boss Bangun.  During his time at the Jakarta jail, Rama is mostly a loner.  This is abundantly clear from his toilet-side battles with half the inmates.  However, he does quickly make an impression, particularly on Uco.  During a muddy fight in the prison yard, Rama takes a bloody opportunity to save Uco's life.  In this moment, he makes a good friend in Uco.  After finishing up his sentence, Rama is thanked personally by Uco's father Bangun and offered a job in his organization.  Now, Rama must be Bunawar's eyes and ears in trying to take down Reza's corrupt police force.  Elsewhere, an ambitious Bejo is plotting to take out Bangun and Goto and run the city of Jakarta.

I said it about The Raid, and I'll say it again about The Raid 2.  People don't come to see martial arts flicks for the story.  They come to see the artistry in every move an action star makes and every bone he breaks.  In the case of The Raid 2: Berandal, star Iko Uwais delivers some of the most brutal, bloody action sequences I’ve seen in quite a while in utterly beautiful form.  He fights furiously for his survival throughout the movie and reintroduces the world to the traditional Indonesian martial art pencak silat.  Uwais and director Gareth Evans give us everything we absolutely loved about the first movie with epic action sequences marked by raw physicality and outstanding fight choreography.  It’s all just grander and gorier than before.  That being said, The Raid 2 gives us something that The Raid never really gave us, a compelling story.  Building on the theme of police corruption from its predecessor, The Raid 2 immerses us in the shady underworld of Jakarta where cops and crooks are often two sides of the same coin.  Though the plot is a little uneven, Gareth Evans’s latest is an ambitious film that I must applaud.

Aside from Uwais, we have a host of other stars rising to the occasion in The Raid 2: Berandal.  Though he’s not reprising his role as the menacing Mad Dog, Yayan Ruhian returns to the film as Bangun’s top assassin Prakoso.  Wielding a machete and stalking his prey with a determined walk, Ruhian channels his inner Jason Voorhees this time around.  For his part as “The Assassin”, Cecep Arif Rahman puts on one hell of a show as well.  He’s this sequel’s version of Mad Dog, a badass who can put just about any man six feet under.  Wielding deadly curved knives called kerambit, Rahman quickly establishes himself as one to watch in the movie, and he doesn’t disappoint any time he’s on camera.  We also have a formidable brother-and-sister tag team in “Hammer Girl” and “Baseball Bat Man”, portrayed by Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman.  Between the two, I’m not quite sure who is deadlier.  While my personal preference is for Yulisman’s fierce usage of a baseball and a steel bat to beat the living hell out of anyone who gets in his way, I must acknowledge that Estelle’s “Hammer Girl” kicks plenty of ass throughout the film as well.

All in all, The Raid 2: Berandal is bigger and more elaborate than its predecessor.  It delivers tons of action that will satisfy just about any action junkie.  Building an intriguing story full of fierce warriors tearing each other apart for two and a half hours, director Gareth Evans defies the law that a sequel is never as good as the original.  Though there are a few missteps in terms of plot, this Indonesian martial arts flicks does everything but disappoint.  The Raid 2: Berandal gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.