Wednesday 9 April 2014

[Review] The Raid 2; Berandal

Stars; Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Yayan Ruhian,
Written/Directed by; Gareth Evans
Running Time 150 Mins
Release Date; 11th April 2014

Following the bloody aftermath of the first film, rookie cop Rama now finds he is a target of the corrupt cops who had sent him and his team on the suicide mission to take down a brutal drug lord. To unmask the corruption at the highest levels and to protect his family Rama agrees to infiltrate the crime families to obtain the necessary evidence. However he soon finds himself caught in the middle of a rising feud between Jakarta's biggest crime families and thus a cat and mouse game of survival ensues.

After the success of The Raid; Redemption in 2012, Evans had the unenviable task of ensuring that the sequel should be superior in every way. Whilst the basic nuts and bolts story suited the claustrophobic feel and setting of the first film, with "Berandal", Evans has created a magnum opus crime saga with a thrilling story as tense and engaging as the brutal martial arts carnage that ensues. Every aspect of the film is grander in scale compared to the first from the two and a half hour running time to the epic story lines and of course even more wince-inducing jaw dropping bloody displays of Pincak Silat.

Director, Editor and Writer Gareth Evans avoided the often repeated sequel trap re-treading the his first ground-breaking feature, and moved the story along in every respect. The script is packed with individual strands of events at first seemingly unrelated such as Rama's deep cover operation to expose the corruption of the police force he swore to serve, the son of a crime boss impatiently awaiting his turn to take over his father's empire, a lowly assassin, and a rogue thug looking to make his own mark in the underworld. Theses strands are woven together into a tapestry of tense double dealing and betrayal with a recurring theme of dissatisfaction echoed in Ucok's strained relationship with his father, and Rama's increasing frustrations with his mission.

The film is splashed with an array of colourful, engaging characters all excellently portrayed. Iko Uwais as Rama is back not only showcasing his Silat skills but also flexing his thespian muscles. Uwais convincingly conveys a man out of his depth and in fear, for his safety and that of his family yet spurred on by a combination of the need for vengeance with his moral convictions. Uwais's performance brings the visceral intensity of Rama's plight convincingly to life. Arid Petra as Ucok, Bangun's son delivers a chilling performance, with a deadly charm and all the coldness of a murdering sociopath who slits his enemies throats as calmly as he enjoys a glass of wine. Providing amiable support are Oka Antara as Eka advisor to Bangun's crime family and Alex Abbad as Bejo whose over the top performance conveys brilliantly all the evil ambitions of a bond villain. The supporting stars as henchman called upon to do their masters bloody bidding, however really do steal the show from the main players. The Assassin (Cecep Arif Rehman) Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) and the much talked about Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) despite saying very little and only having limited screen time exude plenty of almost likable character and charisma turning them, Hammer Girl in particular, into revered anti-heroes.

Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian @Film4FrightFest Screening
Although the action serves the needs of the story it also acts as a centrepiece and with a bigger budget Evans and crew have been able to indulge themselves. The jaw dropping displays of Silat are grander, more imaginative, and bone crunching than before. The visual and aural level of the fight scenes are far brutal than the previous film yet befits the overall feel of Berandal, with some comic elements for light relief. The car chase is a new feature executed with all the intensity and recoil-inducing excitement one would expect from a good car chase, even rivalling the "Fast and Furious" franchise. It is one that surely should be placed in a movie car chase hall of fame amongst the likes of "Bullitt", and "The French Connection".

From start to finish "The Raid 2 Berandal" is tense, engaging and exhilarating with plenty of story and action to keep fans entertained for its two and a half hour running time. Evans has far exceeded the first film in every respect and proven himself as a talented film maker who knows how to tell a story and get the best performances from his cast and crew. The bar has been set very high, with even Hollywood action pictures struggling to hold a candle up to this exciting feature. 

Thank you to Fright Fest and Cineworld Haymarket for this special screening and an amazing evening

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