Because I live in a place where little good actually happens when it comes to movie releases, I had to wait for The Raid: Redemption to finally reach home video before I was able to join the chorus of fans who were blown away by Writer/Director Gareth Evans‘ swiftly moving action extravaganza from 2011. The expectations for the sequel were extremely high and I thought for sure that meant that even here in West By God Virginia, we’d get The Raid 2 to at least one local theater. It was not to be, so here I had to wait for the video release, yet again. Luckily our very own Timothy Ashley was able to see and review it for Psycho Drive-In. From Canada. Anyway, he loved it, as did just about everyone else who saw it. So now that the Blu-ray has hit the market, I finally get to give my take. And guess what? I loved it, too. Surprise. The Movie Opening up just a couple of hours after the conclusion of the first film, The Raid 2 immediately shifts gears with a beautiful wide landscape shot where you almost don’t even notice the grave dug in a road in the lower left corner of the screen, or the black cars ominously pulling up. It’s a complete change of pace that helps signal what’s to come. It also serves to dispense of our hero, Rama’s (Iko Uwais) brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah). So much for following up on that storyline. We also dispense with the tale of the tapes that made The Raid: Redemption‘s conclusion seem to be worth all the pain and loss the characters had gone through surviving that building assault. As far as audaciousness in wiping the slate clean and starting over, this film ranks right up there with Alien 3. With all that done in the first few minutes of the film, we get down to business. Rama is recruited to help root out corruption in the police force by getting himself sent to prison for a relatively minor offence so he can befriend the son of the local crime boss, get taken into the gang, and then bring them down from the inside along with all the dirty cops on their payroll. What could go wrong? Well first off, Rama gets a multi-year sentence thanks to a political grudge, so instead of being away from his pregnant wife for a few months on the job, he doesn’t get out of prison until two years later. That’s a hard ass lyric. The action sequences in this film are unbe-freaking-lievable. And they’re punctuated by excellent character work. Given that The Raid: Redemption‘s plot worked basically like a video game, to see this level of complexity came as a complete shock. Uwais brings a more subtle performance to the party and watching his character grow and change along the way really made this feel more like an event film than your run-of-the-mill action sequel. It’s kind of like following Mortal Kombat with The Godfather II. There’s a pretty huge cast of characters, and nearly everybody gets some attention in the script. So even a character who seems like he’s going to be a one-dimensional killing machine, Prakoso (played by the fight choreographer, Yayan Ruhian), gets a backstory and becomes someone who isn’t just a badass, but is a character you feel real sympathy for. And when they are just one-dimensional killing machines, like Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) and Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle), they’re still so charismatic that you could easily build entire films around them. And each action sequence follows an amazing through line of plot development, with every fight contributing to both the advancement of the story, but to the development of character. I mean, when Rama burns the face off of a dude, you have to pause and wonder just where the hell his head is at. Is he going so far he won’t be able to come back? Every action sequence is great, but I think my favorite was the prison yard mud fight, which, thanks to some tricky editing plays as though it was one long take. First time through I was convinced Evans had done the impossible with that scene, but when you watch with the commentary, he points out each of the cuts. It’s like a master class in editing. Although the final knife fight in the kitchen is pretty freaking spectacular, too. The Raid 2 is without a doubt a disc that should be on your shelf. Right beside your copy of The Raid: Redemption, which should be beside your copy of Merantau. The Disc While the film is fairly dark at times, the 1080p transfer is stunning. Evans’ use of color to set scenes is dynamic and will envelop you. I found myself reminded more than once of the use of color in Nicholas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, and that is definitely a good thing. The details of the set designs is crisp and clean, almost like being there, and the blacks are deep and luxurious. This is what a Blu-ray transfer is supposed to look like. Sony did us right. The discs offer two lossless choices, the original Indonesian track and the dubbed English track, both of which are DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and annoyingly, the disc defaults to the English dub. Once you’ve fixed that problem and have the original language track running, prepare to be immersed into the big, wide world that Evans has opened up in this film. You’ll get wind blowing, nature sounds, punches that will make you flinch, and gunshots that sound like they’re in the room with you. Especially enjoyable is the sound of Baseball Bat Man’s aluminum bat dragging across the concrete right behind you as he enters scenes. The Extras Feature Commentary: Director Gareth Evans is all alone for this, but there’s hardly any silence as he breaks down nearly every single aspect of making The Raid 2, from casting, locations, choreography, plot, and character motivations. It’s about as complete a discussion of a film as I’ve ever listened to. Well worth sitting through the film a second (or third, or fourth) time. Deleted Scene – Gang War (4:37): Ultraviolent short scene that is impressive as hell on its own, but would have been a little too much of a side-trip away from the main action to make the cut. Other than that, though, this is as tightly orchestrated piece of carnage as anything else in the film, and it was very impressive to watch. The Next Chapter: Shooting a Sequel (10:47): This piece examines the process of crafting this film from an earlier script that Evans had written about a man going to prison, becoming a bodyguard for a gang leader, and eventually getting involved in an all-out gang war. There was a problem with the motivation for the character, so making him an undercover cop suddenly solved most of those issues and The Raid 2 was born. Evans establishes that this film picks up literally two hours after the finish of The Raid, clears the decks and establishes a clean launching point for the sequel. There’s a lot of detail here about the actual shooting, the choreographing of the film’s nineteen fight scenes, and making sure that there’s still enough ebb and flow to allow for real character development. Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian served as stunt choreographers and share insights into their planning and filming. Also, Bruce Law and his Hong Kong stunt team were brought in to handle the massive car chase sequence (which ended up including a scene where the handheld camera was actually passed from one operator to another from car to car at top speed!!!) Ready for a Fight: On Location (12:59): An even closer look at the specifics of some of the fight choreography, not just from the performers perspectives, but also looking at just how some of these scenes were actually filmed. The bathroom stall fight, in particular, was a complicated dance of actors moving in and out of scene, the camera moving in and out of scene, and even the walls (on rollers) moving in and out of scene as necessary. Thanks to the technology available — the Red Scarlet digital camera, especially — Gareth Evans was able to actually do his editing on-sight and provide nearly finished results for cast and crew to take a look at by the end of the day’s shoot. It’s really an amazing piece of tech and helped immensely in bringing the film in on schedule. The Cinefamily Q&A with Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais & Joe Trapanese (44:09): A detailed panel discussion after a viewing of the film, hosted by Hadrian Belove, the Executive Director of The Cinefamily. There’s a lot of repeated info here, but it’s worth a look for the behind-the-scenes anecdotes and a glimpse of how Evans and Uwais get along. They’re adorable. Violent Ballet: Behind the Choreography (19:03): More details on the fight choreography, with an emphasis on the fighting style Silat, of which both Uwais and Ruhian are practitioners. We are also given more insight into how the fight scenes follow their own rise and fall, allowing the action to tell as much of the story as possible. Nice stuff. Theatrical Trailer See larger image The Raid 2 [Blu-ray] New From: $15.95 USD In Stock The Raid 2 (2014) Blu-ray5.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses Kelvin Green July 19, 2014 It lacks the focus and tension of the first film — it’s not really about Rama and he’s barely in it — but that’s a result of the change in venue and subject matter. The characters and relationships are a bit better in this one, and the stunts and fights are just as good. I thought it was ace and I can’t wait for the next one! Log in to Reply Top Ten Favorite 2014 Crime Thrillers - Psycho Drive-In January 31, 2015 […] was full of some excellent action flicks but there is none better, in my opinion, than The Raid 2. I waited and waited in anticipation of this film for months after learning that it was being made, […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.