Saturday, 17 January 2015

'The Raid 2' Review

So Rama, the hero of the original ‘The Raid’ has to go undercover within a criminal family in order to avenge his brother. Will Rama be able to find the evidence needed to bring down those corrupt within the police, or will he be discovered and face the same fate as his brother?

So ‘The Raid’ was a bit patchy for me. I loved the fight sequences but found the narrative linking them to be rather lacking. Despite having a somewhat weak story ‘The Raid’ was overall enjoyable, assuming you were able to switch off your brain towards the more stupid elements of it. So does the sequel fix any of the issues I had with the original, or is it more of the same?

The major issue with ‘The Raid’ was the narrative reasoning from the script. Characters chose to do things that would only make sense within a film. For example criminals with guns would choose to instead fight hand-to-hand, that’s when they weren’t forming an unofficial queuing system to fight the hero.

Now what made me forgive these immersion destroying moments was a mixture of two things, the stunt work and the direction. The choreography for ‘The Raid’ was stunning and it continues to be amazing in the sequel. Similarly the tense, atmospheric direction of Gareth Evans is yet again on top form. Now ‘The Raid 2’ attempts considerably more than the original film did. We have more and bigger fight scenes and we get tense character moments that are genuinely hard to watch. Unfortunately ‘The Raid 2’ also attempts to improve upon the story of the original and this causes a lot of problems.

So both ‘The Raid’ and its sequel depict violence in a very real way, neither film shying from the reality of the situation. ‘The Raid’s biggest weakness was the almost comic book like plot which held it together. In some respects however the childish nature of the story made the more ridiculous elements easier to accept. ‘The Raid 2’ attempts to have a far more grounded and sensible story but continues to have ridiculous elements, creating an awkward mixture of storytelling styles. It’s bizarre to have a scene where a man is upset that his father doesn’t respect him placed next to a scene where a novelty assassin kills somebody in a cartoonish way.

It doesn’t help that these drama scenes are not very well written, coming across like scenes from a daytime soap-opera. It’s as if somebody has watched Hard Boiled or Old Boy and taken themes, or in some cases, scenes from them without really understanding the theming or concept behind them. Consistency is the biggest issue with ‘The Raid 2’ over the original.

The original film by necessity had a simplistic plot of a man stuck in a building, who was trying to get out. The sequel goes for a variety of more complicated ideas and can’t seem to decide which film it wants to be. We start with a standard revenge story of Rama trying to avenge his brother. This evolves into a John Woo esque story of an undercover cop trying to understand his new loyalties. The film yet again evolves into a mafia crime war film, each time the film changes it forgets the previous plot entirely. It’s very hard to care for Rama when we don’t know if he’s fighting for his brother, his career, or his safety. The film attempts to hedge its bets and use all three as a driving force, this doesn’t work.

The issues with the fight sequences from the first film are somewhat resolved in the sequel. Large group fights are much more common and feel more believable. Unfortunately the one-on-one fights continue to feel odd. The ending fight sequences in particular feel as if Rama is making his way through a video game ‘Boss-Rush’, as he takes on opponent after opponent, with each patiently awaiting their turn for a beating in interconnected rooms.

‘The Raid’ was about a singular raid which went wrong. ‘The Raid 2’ loses this tight focus and instead feels somewhat messy in comparison. This is a shame because the independent parts are considerably better. Better cinematography, better music, better production design, better acting and most importantly better fights. I can’t say I disliked ‘The Raid 2’, I was just disappointed as ‘The Raid’ showed such promise that hasn’t entirely been delivered on in the sequel. All this being said ‘The Raid 2’ is well worth a watch if you enjoyed the original and it remains the only film I’ve seen with a car being used to do martial arts.

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