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Movie review: The Raid 2: Berandal

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When The Raid: Redemption debuted in 2011, it made a splash due to its incredible action scenes. Many people, myself included, said it was some of the best action they had ever seen.

The movie came from Indonesia, was directed by a Welshman, Gareth Evans, and prominently featured the martial art pencak silat. Its primary issue was a complete lack of story and little reason to care about everything that happened. But those action scenes were so good and so brutal that this didn’t matter.

For the sequel, an additional 50 minutes were added to the running time to bring out more of a story and develop better characters. While the extra length is a bit of overkill as far as I’m concerned — a happy medium could be found somewhere — The Raid 2: Berandal is a better movie than its predecessor thanks to this change.

The film takes place directly after the first and involves Rama (Iko Uwais) being approached to go undercover in an attempt to expose corruption in the police force. To do so, he enters prison to befriend Ucok (Arifin Putra), the son of crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). From here, we get a pretty generic undercover cop movie. Rama sees a lot of things he probably shouldn’t, Ucok struggles with not getting the respect from his father he thinks he deserves and tensions escalate between Bangun’s crew and the Japanese — who have a 10-year truce that you can guarantee will be broken by film’s end. The only thing missing is that Rama never seems to be enjoying what he does and there’s no question about whether or not he’ll turn bad while undercover. It’s a question raised so frequently in undercover cop movies that it’s a bonus to not have to wonder about it in this film.

The Raid 2 is chock-full of the action scenes that made its predecessor a hit. This is a martial arts film where the heroes fight a large number of villains who almost always approach them one at a time — because one-on-one fights are visually dynamic and the mob mentality, while practical from the villains’ perspective, is far less exciting on screen. Hand-to-hand combat scenes are the primary form of action, and some of them are among the best I have seen. The same was true of the first film, but this one takes it up a notch.

Thanks to the much-expanded story element, we actually get to know the characters in The Raid 2, which makes the action scenes mean more. We get context, reason and real characters in the sequel, even if the story is longer than it should be. A film like this does not need to be 150 minutes in length. There are some lengthy stretches between action scenes, and some of the plot points wind up feeling repetitive by the conclusion. If it was cut down by 20–30 minutes it would be better balanced and more well-paced.

A more complete film than its predecessor, The Raid 2 is an immensely enjoyable action movie that also brings with it a full story and a great cast of interesting, well-developed characters. It’s a little too long, but I’ll take too much of something over not enough any day of the week. If you liked The Raid: Redemption, you’ll really enjoy this one. And if you never saw the first movie, now is the time to rectify that.

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