No ‘Redemption’ for the disappointing ‘Raid 2’

THE REEL with Ben Conniff

By: Ben Conniff

In 2012, Welsh-born filmmaker Gareth Evans reinvented the action movie with “The Raid: Redemption” – an Indonesian martial arts film heralded for its brutal action sequences.

Its sequel – appropriately, “The Raid 2” – was touted as “The Godfather, part II” of action movies by critics and audiences who had seen advance screenings at the Sundance Film Festival. 

That kind of hype is a tall order to live up to.

It pains me that I bought into it because the film turned out to be another victim of “sequel syndrome.” That’s when a filmmaker tries to repeat initial success by making the next one bigger and badder. In turn, the sequel loses sight of what made its predecessor so fantastic.

The first “Raid” was a taut, focused thriller that relied on visceral, hand-to-hand combat and gunplay to generate thrills. There were no complicated subplots, and no overload on character development – just good, old fashioned ass-kicking from start to finish.

“The Raid 2” starts two hours after the end of “Redemption.” Our hero, Rama (Iko Uwais), is sent undercover to infiltrate an organized crime syndicate. We assume the syndicate is the same that the villain from the first film was working for.

The synopsis for “The Raid 2” on IMDb also suggests that Rama sets out to uncover corruption within his police force, but I didn’t catch any of that.

It would’ve been way more interesting with police corruption in it. 

As it stands, Evans tries to add some depth to his colorful cast of characters, which is okay. It’s clear that he wanted to up the scope from a single apartment building to an entire city, and I admire him for wanting to take risks with the narrative.

Where “The Raid 2” stumbles is with its high number of central characters. Evans spends too much time trying to develop irrelevant characters with bland dialogue. That’s why the movie is about 45 minutes too long. (It’s two and a half hours altogether!)

What pissed me off even more was the fact that Evans used Yayan Ruhian in both movies. Fans know that his character suffered a grisly fate at the end of “The Raid: Redemption.” It’s a confusing surprise to see the actor return as a different character in “The Raid 2.” I just kept thinking, “What the hell is he doing here?? If he honestly survived the first movie, I quit.”

Clearly Evans likes Ruhian. I suppose the director wanted to keep him around for his excellent fight choreography.

The niche audience of testosterone-fueled teenage boys and adrenaline-crazed girls that sits down to watch “The Raid” does so to see some of the finest fight sequences ever committed to film. 

Both movies have plenty of that. Uwais and Ruhian are masters of “silat,” a method of Indonesian martial arts. Their fast-paced moves and Evans’ top-notch editing make this franchise’s action scenes worth the price of admission.

The new sequel is just bogged down by too much unfocused exposition to recommend over its predecessor.