Once the dust had settled and the hyperbole police had taken away everyone claiming it to be The Greatest Action Film Of All Time, we were able to see The Raid for what it was: a decent but far from perfect action thriller with some outstandingly choreographed fight scenes. So for round two, writer/director Gareth Evans is tackling those imperfections head on. Thought the original's simplistic, video-game-y plot was too thin? Prepare yourself for a full on, labyrinthine story. The fight scenes were too same-y and indistinguishable? Not a problem, as no two scraps are alike this time round, with each new action scene surpassing the previous one. Does it finally claim the title of TheGreatest Action Film Of All Time? Not quite, but it gets even closer to deserving it than the first instalment.
Evans admitted that the first Raid owed as much to claustrophobic horror films like [REC] as it did to action films, and this time round the primary influence would appear to be undercover gangster dramas like The Departed and/or Infernal Affairs. Returning hero Rama (Iko Uwais) must go under cover in prison, and eventually into the higher ranks of a massive crime syndicate, in order to protect his family from the repercussions of his actions in the first movie. Things get complicated when he finds himself on one side of a turf war between the three factions who run all the illegalities within the city, not to mention he's now the bodyguard for Ucok (Arifin Putra), who is looking to usurp his crime-boss father Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo).
Attempting to keep track of who everyone is, especially with so many similar sounding names, can be a trying at times, and the plot turns are far from original, but still told remarkably well. The ramped up scope of the story leads to its ramped up length, and those who enjoyed the original's leanness may be put off by the two and a half hour runtime.
But Evans still knows why we're all here, and barely ten minutes pass without some stand-out action scene arriving to knock our jaws into the floor. Moved from the confines of small rooms and hallways, The Raid 2 features massive dust-ups in mucky prison yards and empty nightclubs, or a city-wide car-chase and shoot-out. Expertly choreographed, never repetitive, masterfully edited and gloriously violent, you’ll be wincing and clapping all at once, convinced that not a single stuntman made it out of this shoot alive.
Anyone who felt the original was as good as kick-ass movies could get may be put off by the sequel's comparatively gargantuan scope, but everyone else will see The Raid 2 for what it is: A genuinely brilliant action film that improves on the first movie in almost every way.