You can say that last night was my second visit to THE RAID 2: BERANDAL (my first visit was on March 28 when it first released in Indonesia—until a sudden chat message broke my mood into pieces and got me walked out of the cinema before the film ended). Note: this is the first film I see in Bandar Lampung! (please say, "YEAAH!!", just to make me feel better).
No, back to business. The hype was on since THE RAID 2: BERANDAL release, especially on social media, and the time I wrote this review, THE RAID 2: BERANDAL scored 8.9 on IMDB. What a prestige. But hey, I was expecting that this would be a 4.5-starred movie! Did I set the bar too high or was the film that unsatisfying?
(Since I believe you all have watched this film, I don't find it necessary to raise a flag for you to be aware of somewhat spoiler-y parts of this review. Well, I know you all have. It's just me being late.)
The first thing you need to pay attention to: please, don't ask me to write about the synopsis. I'm trying to tie THE RAID 2: BERANDAL with THE RAID but I failed. Since everything that gets it entailed with its prequel had been wrapped in the film's first ten minutes, I wondered if Gareth Evans only tried to fill the possible (made-up) holes from the first film just to be expanded into a sequel. Some producers and filmmakers do this carelessly and hastily for the sake of money because, well, money is never wrong. But it's apparent that Gareth and his team tried not to make it show-off-y. It has somewhat lost its hook to its predecessor but from the quality it's still an adequately made sequel.
Look on how Gareth jumbled up new casts (which means, new characters of course; which also means, new weapons to kill). One of them used hammer (that Hammer Girl), the other one used baseball bat (that unknown Baseball Bat guy), the other one used an Indonesian traditional knife called Kerambit. Former characters are kept but situated in less space so that there are enough spaces for new ones. The leading character is no longer Rama (Iko Uwais); he's still the protagonist but I have a gut feeling that Uco (Arifin Putra, who performed great!) is the leading character.
Not only the casts; everything in THE RAID 2: BERANDAL looks big; very much different from THE RAID which contains no complicated plot whatsoever. Gareth wanted to give layers to the story, and I can't say these layers worked very well. Some viewers (me, perhaps, included) are left confused because many characters are added into this multi-level plot. It's so much different from THE RAID where people could easily enjoy the martial arts (or the art of violence?) without giving too much thinking to the story itself.
And that story about politics, corruption, and all, well, never really amazed me (or us) with thoughts. Yes, Gareth has shown a very brief but nailing description about how awful the situation. I can say that not a single part of the film feels useless because if you feel so, everything is merely to explore the characters out. That karaoke scene, or that dramatic husband-and-wife squabble, or that porn studio scene, none of them are really useless because each one of them deepen our concern about the characters.
However, this is not a film with *few* characters. This is no study of character. It's okay if you feel that description about certain characters feel vivid (especially Uco), but what about the others? You can't dig each and every one of these characters, can you? That's why I feel the execution of the ending feels rushy. Why should that description about the Hammer Girl be added (just with few makeups and no dialogues—literally)? What about the tattoos?
So, it's bad? Yeah, and it means half a star taken from my initial verdict, 4.5 star.
But, no, it's not that bad. It's why THE RAID 2: BERANDAL is also half a star better than THE RAID. Gareth learned a lot since THE RAID. He beautified this film using his obsession to symmetry and vibrant colors and extreme wide shots, which are very cool. Some parts got me thinking if I were watching ONLY GOD FORGIVES, because in a way, the two looks similar.
And in case only a few people gave mentions: I give my big applause to the location manager. Who is this guy? Really, you should give him some of your appreciation because, hell, where in Jakarta could you make a super-busy street empty just to shoot a car heist? Where in Indonesia could you get that messy-looking building? Where in Indonesia could you get that eerie jail? That's why I didn't bother about snow in Jakarta because, well, the film was not in Jakarta at all. Snow falling and free street to boost your car machine to the top are apparently not Jakarta as we know it.
Don't let me start with the dialogue. I can't believe the censorship cut a second or two of the film just because of the f**k**g dialogue! (P.S. Foreign viewers who watch THE RAID 2: BERANDAL with translated subtitles might be reluctant to misunderstanding. I, as a Bahasa Indonesia speaker, personally admit that the dialogue was impolite for everyday's talk, but it was also straight and powerful. And it was great, since not many local films could do the same—because most local films suffer from what I call as "poetic dialogue")
So, this is my late (and despicable) review on THE RAID 2: BERANDAL. I just can't help but trying not to get easily amused by this film because it should be THAT good. Gareth, if you read this review, I wanted so badly that you don't continue to THE RAID 3 or what. You're a great director, every great director has their own characteristic, and if action genre is your signature, then why don't you create something other than THE RAID. Please don't make these outstanding, legendary action movies get any more complicated because, finally, what we absorb from your movies is the beauty of martial arts; not some satirical stories that do not even stick to the real point.
P.S.: By the time I wrote this review, THE RAID 3 has already been in talk, with Tony Jaa rumored to be attached to the project. Damn.
▲ Outstanding martial art and action scene, beautiful use of cinematography, Arifin Putra
▼ Complicated plot that involves too many side characters
THE RAID 2: BERANDAL | COUNTRY Indonesia YEAR 2014 RATING Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language RUNTIME 150 min GENRE Action, Crime, Thriller CAST Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle WRITER Gareth Evans DIRECTOR Gareth Evans MORE INFO