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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The Raid 2: Berandal

Get past the surprisingly convoluted plot, and you'll find action sequences to rival the predecessor.
By Lee Zachariah
March 24, 2014
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By Lee Zachariah
March 24, 2014
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In 2011's The Raid, a squad of 20 elite police officers took on a tower block ruled by a crime lord, making their way up the 30 floors through a mixture of gunplay and extreme martial arts. The film was a thrilling surprise, a fun and visceral action ride that we hadn't seen in some time. In the end of that film, our lead, Rama, limps off, after encountering his estranged brother — one of the criminals! — in a tantalising promise of a story that would continue later.

That story does not actually continue in The Raid 2. Though it picks up immediately after the events of its predecessor, it tells a whole new story about criminals and corruption. In fact, this film was written before The Raid, and it was only later that writer/director Gareth Evans decided to create a link.

It might not have been the wisest idea. Part of the joy of The Raid lies in its almost video game-like simplicity. A bunch of cops making their way up a building, defeating nefarious figures, until they finally reach the big boss. Easily digestible.

The appeal of creating a story like Infernal Affairs (or, if you prefer, The Departed) is obvious, and there's certainly nothing wrong with Evans wanting to delve deeper into the world of gangs, corruption, loyalty, double-crosses and general intrigue.

The problem is that action films such as these are essentially delivery systems for the action sequences, and so the convolution in this film after the relative simplicity of The Raid is a bit jarring. I'm not one to shy away from a complex plot, but it feels tonally wrong in this film, like someone crowbarred it in, amongst the scenes of actual crowbarring.

Whether or not you like The Raid 2: Berandal will depend on which direction you're approaching it from. If you're looking for a crime epic in the vein of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather or Kinji Fukasaku's Battles Without Honour or Humanity, you might find it a fairly unoriginal exercise.

But if you're after an action film full of the visceral fight scenes that have been lacking in the recent spate of CGI spectacle, you'll get a lot of out this. Some of the sequences are truly awe-inspiring, particularly a martial arts-filled car chase. Some moments of reflective beauty demonstrate that Evans can go quiet when he needs to, and there's certainly no denying his ability to create memorable, distinctive characters.

It may be missing the refreshing simplicity of The Raid, but The Raid 2: Berandal is a thrilling film that revives the visceral, tangible hand-on-hand tradition of action cinema. Get past the serpentine plot contortions and you'll have an absolute blast.

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