I've been eagerly anticipating this ever since I saw the credits roll on the first one in theaters. The first Raid was and still is a marvelous spectacle of some incredibly intense and well-choreographed fight scenes and certainly ranks as one of the best action movies of all time. Last night I went to watch The Raid 2 with massively high expectations due to the even greater hype it's receiving. The theater was almost totally empty; I thought I had it to myself until a a group of three friends walked in a bit later. Nevertheless, I knew I was in for a treat and hoped to high hell that it was more than just hype.
And HOLY SHIT, was it ever. You guys...The Raid 2 is fucking fantastic. Like unbelievably fantastic. It's some real next-level shit. The last act alone I think puts to shame just about every fight in the first film, which is saying a LOT, considering how amazing Rama's fight with the machete gang and the fight between Mad Dog and the brothers was.
The Raid 2 is an entirely different beast, though. It has an actual plot, and you know what? It's pretty damn good. I mean, the film wouldn't really work as well without one seeing as it's 2 and a half hours. The story doesn't really do anything new, and it actually cribs from a few other crime-dramas, but it works and it kept me engaged until the end. Let's be honest here, though. You come to this for the fight scenes, and for a movie to carry a decent epic-length story AND be able to contain about 12 or 13 action scenes is quite an accomplishment. It's obviously paced differently than its predecessor. The action doesn't come non-stop in the first two acts and it lacks the same kind of manic desperation, but if you know what to expect from this film, it never leaves you wanting for too long.
The action in what is probably more than the first half is plentiful, good and more than serviceable, and the muddy prison yard brawl that closes the first act is certainly something to behold, but much of it lacks that wow-factor of the first Raid. It almost feels like the movie knows this, though, and what follows in the final act is more than a worthy pay-off. This is where the action kicks into high gear and flows almost non-stop. Hammer Girl versus the guys on the train is especially brutal in the best way. The car chase is fucking phenomenal, partly because there is also a minutes-long martial arts fight inside of a moving car at the same time. It's simply beautiful to watch.
Then there are the final two fights. Jesus Christ...these are something that have to be seen to be believed. Rama against Hammer Girl and her baseball-bat wielding partner is one of those "FUCK YEAH" moments that puts on smile on my face the whole time that not many films pull off. But it's worth it. Then immediately following is the final fight with the assassin in the kitchen. Given that this character was introduced late into the film and didn't really mean much, this fight doesn't necessarily carry same weight of the brothers vs. Mad Dog fight of the first Raid, but it certainly matches it in choreography, intensity, and length, perhaps surpassing it in at least two of those categories. It's damn bloody, that's for sure.
Alright, I won't go on about this much longer. But if you haven't figured it out by now, The Raid 2 is fucking amazing, without a doubt one of the best action films of all time. It's gleefully violent and absolutely packed with action. Gareth Evans' directing is something other action directors should take note of. There are so many crazy and unique shots in this film and all of the fights are masterfully edited. I've never seen anything like it. I sincerely hope he gets his due in the coming years.
BIG STORY SPOILERS BELOW
If there is anything I didn't like about the film, it's that Rama's brother Andi is killed off in the very first scene. His death plays almost no role in the rest of the movie. What's worse is that Rama didn't get proper revenge for him. I would've liked him to be the one to take out Bejo. Instead this whole aspect is neatly forgotten about pretty early on.