Sunday, 13 April 2014

Review: The Raid 2 (Berandal)

World of Blackout Film Review

The Raid 2 (Berandal) Poster

The Raid 2 - Berandal
Cert: 18 / 150 mins (yes, 150) / Dir. Gareth Evans
WoB Rating: 6/7

The thing that hits you in the first twenty minutes of Berandal is how much more 'talky' the film is than its predecessor. Whereas 2012's Redemption was a very linear affair, there's a concerted effort this time at building a bonafide reason for the upcoming carnage. That said, the location settings do often feel like a screenwriter saying "but he needs to be in a prison so that we can have a prolonged fight in a muddy prison yard!", and the plot becomes far more involved (and sometimes contrived) than feels strictly necessary.

The fight-scenes are utterly spectacular, of course, and the skill of the cast is matched only by that of the cinematographers Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono in making sure that every kick, punch, slap and gunshot is described perfectly on-screen. There is none of the fast-cut chaos of Hollywood on display here, and you can almost feel each blow connecting with its recipient. Naturally there are many shots (both in the cinematic, and firearm sense) in the film which can't be carried out 'for real', and the effects teams work here is flawless. Well, I imagine it's flawless, but I don't have a lot of experience with watching people's heads get blown apart at point blank range. Their work is certainly convincing at any rate.

Of course, the film and its director aren't so much of an unknown quantity this time around, so audience expectation is far higher. In many ways, The Raid 2 is infinitely more nuanced than Evan's previous outing, but I do think that it comes at the expense of the constantly flowing adrenaline. This is a better film, perhaps, but not a better movie. At the risk of sounding like a complete heathen, there's far too much dialogue in Berandal (not to mention subtitles that don't stay on-screen long enough to be read), but to be fair, you won't be going to watch this for the witty banter (although there is a little). While the fight-choreography is amazing, the duration of the 'setup' scenes seems far too lengthy, and while it's admirable that this sequel is trying (and succeeding) to operate on a higher level, the film feels distinctly episodic (as it covers around two and a half years, as opposed to the one day of The Raid), and left me feeling like I'd watched four episodes of a TV series back to back. The film's director Evans has already proved he can tell a compelling story and keep the momentum sustained, but I don't think he quite manages it this time.

Iko Uwais brings the wide-eyed, yet resigned, determination to the game once again, and is similarly fantastic, as is Yayan Ruhian ("Mad Dog" from the first film, who I could have could have sworn died in that one, but it has been a while since I watched it, and the IMDB page suggests he plays a different character), even though he seems to have been given his brief role out of courtesy, rather than plot necessity. Also very much 'on the radar' in this film is Julie Estelle, listed only as "hammer girl". There are few things more simultaneously foreboding yet amusing than watching a hot chick retrieve two claw hammers from her bag on a crowded tube-train and stare menacingly down the other end of the carriage. The only thing better than this is watching her use them. Other gleefully violent scenes in the film utilise a baseball bat, a restaurant hotplate and a motorcycle helmet. I'm sure you get the idea.

But as I said, there's a lot to cover in this film, and considering the story is still centered around Rama and his quest to cleanse the city of corruption, we don't seem to spent a great deal of time in his company. Rama is one of the seemingly incorruptible characters in the story, and amongst all the human filth we encounter, it's great to see a protagonist focused on his righteous goal without seeming patronising at all.

The Raid 2 is far too long, and although it's filled with amazing martial arts skills, doesn't top its predecessor for sheer adrenaline. That said, it's still the best action film you'll see this year. A little bird tells me there's a limited number of prints in the UK (although I don't know why, in this digital age), so if it's on at your cinema, go and see it.

Best line: "Suck it up… don't fuck it up."

Is the trailer representative of the film?
For the action, yes, for the plot, no.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
I winced a lot. Although not as much as the chap in the row behind who pretty much sucked his teeth and whispered "Shi-i-i-i-t" for the duration.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
It does, but I'm not sure that's what's needed.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Big. Loud. Noisy. Cinema.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
I will.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
I didn't hear one, but there's a lot of screaming in this, so it wouldn't surprise me if I missed it.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
How long's The Raid 3 going to be? They'll have to put an intermission in it at this rate…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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