Calgary Underground Film Festival 2014 - The Raid 2

Posted on Friday, April 11, 2014 at 01:00 AM

The Raid 2

Reviewed by Christopher Lee,

Who doesn’t like action movies, and specifically in a theatre environment? Whether it is the Iron Man series or the Fast and Furious series, it doesn’t matter, I eat that stuff up. Like most action series, you don't have to watch the first films to understand what is going on. Big explosions, fast cars, intense shootouts, the important thing here is that action movies are best known for death defying stunts. However, in the case of The Raid 2, quite ironically, very few people in the film actually are able to defy death. In fact, they die in creatively brutal and violent ways, and that is exactly what makes the fun behind Gareth Evans’ The Raid films.

Screened as part of the 11th Calgary Underground Film Festival’s (CUFF) stellar lineup for 2014, the CUFF team scored huge by securing the rights to the Canadian Premiere of The Raid 2 for the week prior to its North American wide release. That’s not without precedence, where gruesome action films somewhat rarely premiere on the film festival circuit, The Raid 2 had its original premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and also screened at the indie, now-mainstream festival SXSW. Its predecessor The Raid (aka The Raid: Redemption in North America), had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Here in Calgary, the CUFF event was sold out and had a rowdy crowd that was encouraged by action movie junkies Andrew Phung and Derek Hovinga, edging our excitement with their Martial Arts Smackdown bracket matchups.

The Raid 2 begins directly after The Raid ends. With his police team entirely wiped out, the main character Rama (Iko Uwais) gets recruited to go undercover with the thugs of Jakarta, and work to uncover the corruption within the Indonesian police force. Although still considered a youthful rookie, Rama possesses an amazing fluency in the Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat, and for that reason is indomitable. That said, he shows he is still susceptible to trusting others and is somewhat emotional, but luckily he is smart enough to sense the tension, when something is just about to go wrong. Though, once in his groove, in classic protagonist fashion, Rama kicks ass methodically; sparing no mercy, motivated by his love for his wife and newborn child.

It is in jail where that Rama meets Uco (Arifin Putra), the only son and heir to godfather Banguan (Tio Pakusadewo), the leader of the biggest crime syndicate in Jakarta. Uco is a conceited entitled bully, who having lived a spoiled childhood, throws a tantrum when they don’t yield to his (father’s) power. Rama works to befriend Uco, setting himself up to eventually infiltrate the gang.

Underground triads and mafia have been a popular genre in Asian film, glamorizing the epic power struggles and gang battles. The storyline here reminds me of a classic Hong Kong triad film called Young & Dangerous, which portrayed gang life in a romanticized way, where gangsters are heroic and those at the top of organized crime live a life of luxury whilst immune to police and government laws. In Y&D, and seen in The Raid 2, the up and comers gangsters are hungry for power and attempt to disrupt the status quo in order to gain control of lucrative drug turfs. The mind games, the backstabbing, like a chess match, certain characters believe they are the ones in command, yet naively end up being unaware that they are merely a pawn in another gangsters plans.

Soon after the opening jail scenes, we start getting introductions to the big players in the film. At approximately 1/4 of the way in, we get (re-)introduced to one of the real stars of The Raid 2. Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian) is a highly skilled assassin for the Banguan empire, who just also happens to be a hobo, stealthily dismantling enemy gangsters upon order via pager. For those that do not know, Yayan Ruhian is one of the main fight choreographers for The Raid films, and starred in the original Raid film as the crazy Mad Dog. It is his creative fight work that we see applaud throughout the entire film.

We also meet Eka (Oka Antara) who is the second in command to Banguan, the Goto crime family led by Goto (Kenichi Endo) who work co-jointly with the Banguan family, and Bejo (Alex Abbad) a young up and coming gangster. Bejo employs a stable of three elite specialists: Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) who uses claw hammers, Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) who uses a baseball bat and a baseball, and The Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman) who uses Indonesian kerambits, all to commit acts of massacre and dismemberment. As we watch these factions jostle for territory and retribution, the movie really kicks into high gear with the fights spilling out onto the alleys, subways and roadways of Jakarta.

Now don’t forget to breathe. That’s what you have to remember to do when you are watching this film. The fight sequences are so intense and extensive that you will find that you end up holding your breath far too often. In fact, the Globe Cinema got so incredibly hot during the screening, likely from people just having their senses in overdrive throughout the nonstop carnage of The Raid 2. Be forewarned, there is lots of blood, gore and an uncountable number of deaths, in fact, it’s probably more difficult to guess who stays alive rather than guess who will be the next to get bludgeoned. Furthermore, even though clocking in at a hearty 2.5 hours long, the pace is so blazingly fast that you literally don’t have time to wipe the sweat off your brow.

With The Raid 2, a new benchmark has just been set for action movies. Just like martial arts film predecessor Ong Bak pioneered new ground with its genre bending debut in 2005, the original Raid did the same in 2011. Ong Bak had brought Muay Thai to a wider audience, with Tony Jaa as the protagonist. However, the producers of the Ong Bak trilogy failed to carry that momentum through to the latter two films, as the self-centered attitude of the slow-mo-different-angle-same-scene shots became gimmicky and stale.

So what Gareth Evans does with The Raid 2 is admirable, so to speak, in completely understanding what audiences loved about The Raid, and then pumping it full of heroin and serving it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The production values are excellent, as the budget for The Raid 2 was 4x times larger than the budget of $1.1 million of The Raid. Noticeably, the cinematography and sets are outrageous and exaggerated, but this surprisingly adds consistency to the film’s overindulgence, rather than detracts.

The Raid 2 doesn’t try to be anything else but an action film, settling for nothing less than to be the best and most intense of its class.

The Raid 2 was reviewed at the 11th Calgary Underground Film Festival 2014. Opens Nationwide on April 11, 2014, click for Calgary Showtimes >.


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to