By Jacob Montgomery (Texas)
Let me just say that I don’t make declarative statements about films lightly. Most especially on a film that’s recent. However, I feel that I am more than justified and confident enough to declare The Raid 2 as one of the greatest action films of all time. In fact, purely from an action standpoint, I’d be willing to call it the greatest action film of all time.
This film commences just a few hours after the events of the first film. A rookie cop who survived the events of the first film, Rama (played by Iko Uwais) is told by his lieutenant that his brother has been killed and that his wife and infant son are in danger. So Rama decides to go undercover in the criminal underworld in the hopes of bringing down the corrupt politicians and police officers to make Jakarta a better place. However, he soon finds himself caught in the middle of a dangerous criminal battleground that could compromise his identity.
The film’s plot, while seeming simple, is actually quite complex and heavily layered. The film is akin to that of a rich crime saga, reminiscent of The Godfather, or Goodfellas, but not that complex. Some may argue the film is too complex for the type of film it’s going for, and may be a tad confusing at times, but I feel that a few re-watches will make the story clearer, and it’s not like the story is impossible to follow.
But that’s not the focal point of film anyway. The film’s main selling point is the action set pieces. They are absolutely fantastic. The film seamlessly manages to update the martial arts fighting in a contemporary setting, and give us some memorable fights, characters and images to boot. The fighting style manages to be original, inventive and stylistically bloody.
It was clear that so much effort went into making these fight scenes look so fantastic and feel so real. The choreography of them is not only one of the best to date; it is the best choreography I’ve seen in any action film. This film also manages to bring back some of the grit and raw bloody intensity back into the action genre. This is a film where you feel the action, and it is time that somebody finally understands that that was what made great action films in the first place. I really hope that future action directors will take a note from this film.
The other thing it gets correctly is how the protagonist fights in a film. In the better action films, the protagonist would occasionally be slowed down by punches, slashes of knives, and yes, even gunshots sometimes. That largely seems to have been forgotten now, favoring instead characters who merely shrug off dangerous stunts (I’m looking at you Die Hard 5), however this film not only brings that back, it takes it to a whole new level. Rama is shown to be an incredibly skilled fighter, but he does take a few hits, and even worse. This gives the character vulnerability, a relatable tinge and thus creates a lot of tension and suspense, making for an ultimately more glorifying and gratifying experience.
However, the film does not put the action before its characters and stories. It takes the time for the characters to talk and grow, and for the situation to be fully understood, before dropping us into the action. There is a perfect equilibrium between them, making for a flawlessly paced movie. The fights are all perfectly spaced out, and they never feel the need to shoehorn an unnecessary fight scene.
The film’s action keeps growing and growing, including an unbelievably well done car chase scene, one of the best done in several years, until we finally reach the explosive 20 minute long climax, which is well worth the price of admission alone. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, and that is not an easy thing to do.
This is not necessarily one of the deeper or more morally complex movies I’ve seen that explore deep meaningful themes. However, purely from an entertainment point-of-view, this film succeeds. In fact, it more than succeeds. It soars. The adrenaline rush I felt while watching this film was incredible. It was a labor of love from the Director/Writer/Producer Gareth Evan, and it really shows. Superior to the first film in almost every way, shape and form, The Raid 2 is one of the greatest action films of all time, and like I said before, I did not make that statement lightly. Any action aficionado needs to see this film.