How The Raid 2 Kicked My Ass and Saved Action Cinema in the Process

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The Raid 2
Written and directed by Gareth Evans
Ikow Uwait, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara
Sony Pictures
2014

For a long time, fans of action cinema have been starving. Living on a diet of empty calorie action cinema (White House Down, for example), I was resigned to the fact that the action film as I knew it was a distant memory replaced by CGI-enhanced trash and “Geriatric Action Cinema” (The Expendables, or any recent film with Arnie or Stallone as the lead). This new dispensable action cinema is especially depressing, always reminding fans of what once was and what no longer is. The GAC movies are empty exercises in cheap nostalgia, kind of like what the Stones do when they go on tour these days. The less we talk about Die Hard 5, the better. There are only five films in recent memory that have satiated my craving for great action. They are: The live action cartoons that are Crash and Crash 2, the ridiculously violent Rambo IV (Stallone actually did a bang up job on this particular film), and John Hyams’ direct-to-videos Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. I know what you’re thinking: “Really? Universal Soldier?

Yes, my friends.

Anyway, that is it; five measly action films in a very long time. That is not enough. It felt as if this beloved genre had gone the way of prog rock, and by that I mean down the shitter. I was just going to have to sit on my couch and watch my old VHS copy of the Exterminator 2.

But, fear not my friends! Gareth Evans is here to give us hope by singlehandedly saving action cinema. He’s made the best action movie I’ve ever seen. Seriously. No shit. No hyperbole.

That film is called The Raid 2.

Evans first made a blip on the radar with 2009’s Merantau. It was a pretty nice debut – not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but one whose nicely staged action scenes were good enough to raise an eyebrow.

Then, in 2011, came The Raid. I caught it in Washington D.C. with my friends Elliot and Dennis (two other action hounds). By the halfway mark, the three of us gave each other a knowing look. We had stumbled upon an action masterpiece – the proverbial game changer.

Three years later, The Raid 2 was unleashed. Going in, I knew that I was probably in for a really good time, but I got so much more than that.

Jesus!!!

I’m not really going to get into the plot mechanics of this 2 1/2 hour long pulp-fest (trust me, it doesn’t feel like 2 1/2 hours). I’ll just say that the film takes place about 2 hours from when The Raid left off and that our hero, Rama, is ordered to infiltrate a ruthless mob organization by proving his chops (pun intended) in a maximum security prison. Absolute mayhem ensues. Needless to say, there are double crosses, triple crosses and revenge (you know, a gangster movie). Evans handles the plot’s intricacies with a steady hand. He’s not just a great action director (even though he’s arguably the finest in the world at this point); he’s a good storyteller as well. The cinematography by Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono is sublime. From the first shot on, the rich colors are entrancing. But that’s enough about that. You came here for action.

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The film’s action set pieces are spine-shattering. From a ridiculous prison yard showdown to an insane fight inside an empty nightclub to a virtuoso car chase, Evans keeps one-upping the previous action scene until he turns the volume on the amp to 11 and beyond. As you watch the film you think, “Well, Evans just hit the film’s action zenith on that one,” but he just keeps on impressing and surprising you. And don’t get me started on Hammer Girl. Anyhow, I don’t want to give too much away. Just get ready to be happy.

Oh, and no CGI!!! Evans goes totally old school with this film. There is no use of CGI whatsoever. All the action is right there in front of you, all the gore effects (and there are many) are all practical and they really destroy thousands upon thousands of dollars’ worth of vehicles. Because of the lack of CGI, you are totally immersed in the film and never have a chance to be distracted by something that looks completely fabricated. Furthermore, the action scenes are shot clearly and without the hyper editing that film makers feel the need to use since the Jason Bourne movies. Hyper editing looked good the first few time around, but then when every film felt the need to use the style to give the films that “authentic look” they ruined it (kind of the way The Matrix’s bullet time was ruined by thousands of imitators and how Zach Snyder ruined slow motion for all time). Evans will have none of that (and neither will Andi Novianto, his co-editor). You know exactly what is happening every minute of the film no matter how much chaos is exploding all over the place.

Leaving the theater and having recovered from the spectacle I had just experienced, I realized that I may have just witnessed The Godfather 2 of action movies.

Read that again, if you have to.

A word on the violence in this film: It is completely over the top. If you’re not an action or horror connoisseur, this film may be a little too much for you. Ten of those Geriatric Action Cinema movies put together won’t have the amount of stabbings, shattered bones, slit throats, exploding heads, ripped faces and deaths by hammer you’ll find in The Raid 2. At the same time, don’t let the gore deter you. Maybe have a stiff drink beforehand and you’ll be just fine

You might want to wear a raincoat.

The Raid 2 is rated R for extreme violence, some sexual situations, language and extreme violence.

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Will Vargas

Will Vargas was born on July 2nd 1973 in Miami, FL. At an early age, he became obsessed with music, cinema and comic books. When he grew up, he graduated from Florida International University with a Degree in English and with a focus on occult literature. He is a self-proclaimed Doctor of the cinematic arts and gentleman scholar in the fields of music and graphic novels. He lives in Jacksonville where he pretends to be a community organizer.

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