Adopting the more is much much more approach, director Gareth Evans does away with the simplicity and tautness of the original and unveils ‘The Godfather‘ of all Indonesian martial arts films in its place. Borrowing heavily from notable crime thriller, Infernal Affairs (many will be more familiar with its American remake, The Departed), The Raid 2: Berendal is arguably the most ambitious crime saga since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008).
Kicking off seconds after the events of the original, Rama (a superhuman Iko Uwais) is begrudgingly tasked to infiltrate Indonesia’s crime families, in an effort to eradicate police corruption for good. To make all these efforts seem legitimate, Rama is forced to separate from his young family and commit a crime worthy enough to endure two years of savagery in an Indonesian prison. Upon release, Rama becomes caught in the middle of a blood-drenched war between rival gangs and crooked authorities.
By expanding its universe beyond the walls of the original’s apartment block, the sequel bursts with excessive scope and energy, as it takes its centrepiece – the deadly art of Pencak Silat – onto the mean streets of the Jakartan underworld. When the action is unleashed, it does so with the same unbridled ferocity, visual splendour and choreographic brilliance of its predecessor. In particular, the film’s final confrontation may even prove to be the most stunning piece of hand to hand combat ever captured on screen. Both brutal and balletic, it seems only Evans has the capacity to top such an achievement.
While the glorious action excites and invigorates, the writer/director’s lofty aspirations of telling a sprawling crime drama do come at a price. With the inclusion of multiple new characters and a number of loosely interconnected side plots, the overall story becomes far too muddled and convoluted to be followed in its bloated 150 minute runtime.
Still, when Evans is done with his admirable, yet misguided attempt to provide emotional and narrative weight, the film does deliver in spades. As the stakes build and intensify, so to do the adversaries that Rama must defeat. Genre fans will be glad to meet two characters that seem to be hand-picked straight from a Quentin Tarantino film; Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yullisman). Both bring with them a dark and sadistic sense of humour, along with some bone-crunching carnage that will make audiences gasp and applaud.
Even though The Raid 2: Berendal doesn’t quite capture that same spark that made 2012’s The Raid: Redemption the new benchmark for action filmmaking; it is relentlessly entertaining. Further to this, Gareth Evans has confirmed that the original was no fluke, and he has affirmed himself as a modern day master of the action/martial arts genre.