Sunday, April 13, 2014

MOVIE - The Raid 2 : Berandal.

It's been a while since I did a movie post.  I still watch movies, but between Hannibal, Justified and (now) From Dusk Till Dawn, TV shows have gotten the lion's share of my appreciation.

For example, Frozen.  Frozen isn't as good as Tangled, no matter how many folks try to convince you - and Let It Go got old halfway through the first time I heard it - I've no idea why that movie's as popular as it is.

Let me tell you something that will disgust you, Park Chan-Wook fans.
He doesn't eat that

Earlier today, Kayla and I were snuggled up, enjoying Sunday morning in bed, and I considered watching Anchorman 2 - so I checked out its trailer, and decided no, that can wait until I'm more desperate for entertainment.  We decided on Spike Lee's remake of Oldboy, which I can only admit to finding interesting in how it differs from the original.  Lee's version, I feel, lacks a lot of the heart of the original - and the ending feels like a massive deflation instead of a power blow.  None of this is on Brolin, who does his best with what he's given, and - as always - I loved Sharlto Copley.

Lee tries to make things emotionally bigger and more-complex than the original, but what he does just seems to make things more laughable, and far less affecting.  Oh well.

Moving on.  Wanna' see a really good action movie?  Like, an awesome action movie?

Are you okay with some very, very violent content?  Good.   Last night, Kayla and I went out to see The Raid 2: Berandal.

The Raid 2 is the best straight-up action movie I've seen since The Raid.  In a lot of ways, it's The Raid With A Budget, And A Way Bigger Cast.  As such it's less focused, and its scope denies it the almost-unbearable tension of the original.

First, a bit of history.  When director Gareth Evans went to Indonesia, as the story goes, he was enchanted by the incredible and widely-unknown martial art Pencak Silat, Indonesia's "dialect" of the Silat form (there are actually multiple, international martial art styles showcased in The Raid, but let's not get off-topic).  He was, at that point, in the planning stages of a big, epic crime movie called Berendal ("Thug"), but his plans exceeded his grasp, and he knew he wouldn't be able to make a movie with such a large scope.

Instead, he wrote a new, smaller script, shot almost entirely in a single apartment block, and called it The Raid.

The Raid saw a rookie cop, surviving against all odds in an apartment complex packed to the gills with thugs and master killers, beating the shit out of them with absolutely brutal, incredibly fast martial arts - often punctuated with shockingly hard ultimate blows that'll make you squirm in your seat.  The Raid is a phenomenal action movie, was suitably celebrated by critics and audiences, and went on to earn Evans a buttload of money and credibility.

Evans took that money and credibility and, returning to his original plan, made Berendal - now a direct sequel to The Raid.  Once again, it's frickin' awesome.

Iko Uwais is back as Rama, a thirty-year old powder keg of controlled violence teeming beneath a beautiful, thirty-year-old baby face.  Rama is the one rookie cop who beat the shit out of all the bad guys in the first movie and lived to tell the tale, and in Berandal, his city's undercover cops inform him that because of what he's done, he and his family will never be safe - until the town's been cleaned up for good.

Thus begins a circuitous tale of Rama going undercover to gain the trust and loyalty of the local Mafia kingpin's son, and the internal power struggles and violence that comes when sonny boy gets ambitious.  The movie sprawls.  The blood trail goes from rice paddies to fishing huts to prison washrooms - and that's just the first fifteen minutes of a two-hour epic that constantly switches up its set pieces, chewing its way through Berendal's budget with a lusty gusto, until we're enjoying a fifteen-minute sequence as one wild-haired killer fights off fifty foes in a glittering nightclub.  What's loveliest is that it could have been a thirty-second sequence in which a single person gets shot in the back of the head - but why waste such a beautiful, dynamic set and such skilled athletes on simplicity?

Julie Estelle, listed in the credits only as "Hammer Girl."

As the movie ebbs and flows from set-up to set-piece and back again, it loses the dense tension of The Raid, which maintained a horror-movie level of stress throughout, thanks to its tight focus, fleet pacing and single focus on one dude trying to escape one apartment block.

Berandal doesn't have that focus, and trades it for grandeur - but it doesn't lose the greatest parts of its predecessor.  By the halfway point, I had marked that - while its fights were equally spectacular and flinch-inducing - there was nothing, so far, that reached the level of that last, unbelievable fight in The Raid.

"Towards the end of the film, after a particularly long and grueling sequence, when the bad guy was finally dead and the hero triumphant, there was the briefest of moments where you could hear a pin drop in the theater.

Was the bad guy going to come back? No - it was safe to breath again - and throughout the room you could hear people turning to each other and pronouncing "that was awesome." A round of applause went up - a woop could be heard.

We all exhaled, finally, and breathed easy - we all laughed off the phenomenal tension this movie creates."
-MOVIE - The Raid-

Well, by the end, Berandal had two of those.

Plus, this one has a car chase!

A word of warning - The Raid and Berendal are not for the squeamish.  I told my father to check out The Raid if he wanted an incredible action movie, but he turned it off after not-too-long, pronouncing it "pretty violent."

It is.  It contains horror-movie levels of violence, and deaths coming via a lightning-strike blow to punctuate a sequence of blistering choreography of martial arts that will make you recoil, hissing a breath in through clenched teeth - don't go into it expecting The Matrix, 'cause this ain't PG.  This is action that hits hard, takes no prisoners, and is utterly gorgeous in its savagery.

You want to go see an incredible martial arts flick?  You wanna' go see The Raid 2.


  1. I've stayed away from the Oldboy remake for those reasons. I'm happy with the original and I don't need to see (nor do I want to see) a lackluster remake.

    I want to see The Raid 2 so much. No theater is showing it where I live; which is surprising since I was able to see the first one in theaters. Guess I'll wait for the blu-ray.

    1. When I was a kid, we had a very simple metric for whether or not a movie was good - this was back in the VHS days - and a good movie was a "buyable" one. It's definitely buyable.