April 22, 2014 Leave a comment
This is the best action movie of the past decade. Probably even better than a decade – maybe the last 15 years? When was the last time a really great action movie came out (The Matrix in 1999?). It doesn’t really matter. You can use any time frame, because The Raid 2 is one of the best action movies of all time.
The dynamic duo (director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais) gave a much-needed shot of adrenaline to the action genre when they released The Raid: Redemption in 2011. That movie was an hour-and-a-half long action sequence as Uwais kick-punched his way through innumerable floors of baddies before finally reaching the top floor, where naturally the
video-game final stage boss antagonist resides. It revitalized martial arts films and instantly became an action cult classic, and the best part? – it was basically just a Kickstarter pitch video to make The Raid 2.
The Raid 2 was written before The Raid: Redemption. My understanding is that there was no intention to create a franchise. The Raid 2 – then simply called Berandal – was an ambitious martial arts epic that would change the face of action cinema as we know it – and that absolutely no one was interested in financing. So the dynamic duo scraped a bit of cash together, created the most basic action plotline (SWAT team taking on drug dealers) and used it as an excuse to choreograph action scene after action scene to prove that they were the real deal. The Raid: Redemption was a solid movie but the unrelenting action sequences became a bit tedious due to the limitations of the budget and setting (there are only so many times you can watch nameless bad guys get beaten up on different apartment floors). The Raid 2 roundhouse kicks The Raid: Redemption out of the water.
In The Raid 2, you have fight scenes in: a bathroom stall, a prison courtyard, a nightclub, a restaurant (x2), a kitchen, a drug dealer’s den, a subway, an alleyway, and in the great outdoors. There’s a fantastic car chase and enigmatic antagonists – like a baseball-bat carrying assassin and his deaf female companion who dual-wields hammers (referred to as “Baseball Bat Man” and “Hammer Girl” naturally). The action scenes have some of the best action choreography since…well, The Raid: Redemption, and it’s an absolute joy to watch (that is, if you enjoy buckets of blood and people being viciously murdered – I assume that includes everyone).
Even though it’s early in their careers, I think Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais can be favorably compared to John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat. They are redefining the action film and creating sequences that have never be done before (or at least, presenting it in such a way it’s as if it has never been done before). Watch the action scenes carefully and you’ll notice something unique – each are framed and shot with absolute clarity. In contrast to the Hollywood rapid-style editing where you don’t really know if the good guy hit the bad guy but are pretty sure he did, all the action sequences in The Raid 2 take the time to orient the audience and frequently use longer-than-average shots. It’s something to be really excited about – an action movie where you understand what’s going on. I think it must be nearing a decade since that existed.
The Raid 2 is a defining film of the action genre. Seeing it in theatres is like seeing Die Hard, Terminator 2, or Hard Boiled for the first time – a piece of genre history. This is the action movie that all future action movies will measured by. Someone tell Grantland that Iko Uwais, not Liam Neeson, just got the title to the 2014 Action Hero Throne.
Sidenote: The plot in The Raid 2 is basically The Departed Lite. Iko goes undercover to get close to a criminal syndicate by posing as a low level thug and doing jail time. It’s pretty standard crime genre stuff – including the hot-headed son of the aging crime kingpin, an ambitious upstart, and corrupt cops. The “betrayals” can be seen from a mile away, but at least the film tries to add a semblance of a plot this time to break up the action sequences.