Friday, April 4, 2014

The Raid 2: Berandal Movie Review

Iko Uwais kicks ass in The Raid 2: Berandal

Pure, Unadulterated Awesomeness

It's been just over a decade since the Wachowskis redefined the action genre in 2003's The Matrix Reloaded; and ever since, I wondered if any movie could come close to, or (shudder) surpass it. At long last, my search is over... thanks to Gareth Evans' cinematic tour de force The Raid 2: Berandal. In some ways, The Raid 2 is actually better - given the absence of science fiction and awe-inspiring CGI. It doesn't get more real (or awesome) than future superstar Iko Uwais and his slew of victims. Lights, Camera, Action!

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: He thought it was over. After fighting his way out of a building filled with gangsters and madmen - a fight that left the bodies of police and gangsters alike piled in the halls - rookie Jakarta cop Rama thought it was done and he could resume a normal life. He couldn't have been more wrong. Formidable though they may have been, Rama's opponents in that fateful building were nothing more than small fish swimming in a pond much larger than he ever dreamed possible. And his triumph over the small fry has attracted the attention of the predators farther up the food chain. His family at risk, Rama has only one choice to protect his infant son and wife: He must go undercover to enter the criminal underworld himself and climb through the hierarchy of competing forces until it leads him to the corrupt politicians and police pulling the strings at the top of the heap. And so Rama begins a new odyssey of violence, a journey that will force him to set aside his own life and history and take on a new identity as the violent offender "Yuda." In prison he must gain the confidence of Uco - the son of a prominent gang kingpin - to join the gang himself, laying his own life on the line in a desperate all-or-nothing gambit to bring the whole rotten enterprise to an end.

What’s Best: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; and I tend to find it in the strangest of places... namely fighting. Uwais outshines all the greats (Bruce Lee, Jet Li, heck... even Mike Tyson) with clean, compact violence. Credit Evans for showcasing it so effectively; but the lion's share of credit has to go to the 31-year-old Indonesian, who cracks heads for the film's incredibly short 148 minute runtime.

Rather than give away all the good stuff, allow me to list my five favorite moments of skull crushing (in no particular order.)

1. Rama's first day in prison, and the most incredible bathroom stall fight ever shot on film. He literally launches a guy into the next stall.

2. The prison yard fight. OMG. This matches The Matrix Reloaded's Burly Brawl for best action scene ever. It begins with the careful disassembly of a broomstick, and ends in the subsequent disassembly of a dozen bad guys. Yuda (formerly Rama) kicks one dude in the head... literally stuffing him into a concrete curb. Incredible.

3. Yuda's apartment. Call my real estate agent: I just found Heaven.

4. A simultaneous beat down applied by brother-sister combo "Baseball Bat Man" (Very Tri Yulisman) and "Hammer Girl" (Julie Estelle) across two different venues, including a subway car packed with soon-to-be dead dudes. Best subway car fight ever?

5. The final 30 minutes. Yuda fights his way out of an SUV and a taxi cab in some of the best close quarter fighting ever; before taking on all the bad guys in a breathtaking showdown, that literally left me with my mouth hanging open.

What’s Not: Even the acting is legit in The Raid 2; but I could do without the scene where a topless chick walks around with a strap-on... Yuck. Out of 2 ½ hours though, that's the only negative.

Best Line: Rama is recruited by task force chief Bunawar (Cok Simbara) who dispenses Zen-like advice such as, 'There's no such thing as a clean war in this world,' and 'None of us are spiders. We're all part of one big, fu*king web.' Confucius say, "You go Bunawar!"

Overall: I grew up idolizing guys like Lee, Steven Seagal, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme; so it's no wonder I love The Raid 2. However, the sequel to 2011's The Raid: Redemption is vastly superior to the hundreds of wannabes that preceded it. Gorgeously shot, well acted and revolutionary, The Raid 2 comes dangerously close to perfection. Seriously... without that strap-on, this could be an A+. Don't dare miss it.