By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
When “The Raid 2” bowed at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, it triggered an instant-analysis debate along a narrow spectrum. Was it the greatest action movie ever made, or merely the most violent?
Considering the film’s target audience, that’s a win-win argument.
The sequel to 2011’s cult-y “The Raid: Redemption,” which was primarily set within a Jakarta high-rise, considerably widens the canvas this time out. Returning hero Rama (Iko Uwais) has survived that adventure only to be tapped for an undercover operation as unlikely as it is brutal.
He’s spent two years in jail earning the trust of an Indonesian gangster’s son (Arifin Putra), the better to infiltrate the gang when he gets out. The aim is to gain information about police corruption and smash the syndicate, but writer-director Gareth Evans seems less interested in the intricacies of storytelling than he is in devising one flabbergasting action sequence after another.
This he does, with utter confidence, for 2 ½ hours. This is far too long by ordinary standards, but not too long if you (a) have an appetite for unbridled mayhem, or (b) curiosity about the spectacle of a director playing can-you-top-this with himself.
On the latter point, Evans frequently succeeds, staging an awe-inspiring car chase, a massive donnybrook in a muddy prison yard and a climactic hand-to-hand fight in a state-of-the-art kitchen that uses each utensil for maximum effect.
We’d also like to introduce you to a couple of characters who lurk around the edges waiting to deliver their specialties: Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man. Given the expectations raised by their billing, they do not disappoint.
And there’s a fantastically cool old-school assassin (Yayan Ruhian, sharing fight-choreographer credit with Uwais) who really deserves his own spin-off vehicle. Before that comes, Evans will undoubtedly deliver Part Three of this series — or so the ending suggests.
It’s hard to know where that movie would go, given the maximalist treatment here: the fights are breathtaking, the stunts a hoot and a few of the most violent moments are shockingly grisly. “The Raid 2” is some kind of pulp achievement, but it doesn’t really make you eager for more; except for die-hards, exhilaration could surrender to exhaustion just after this movie gets out of the kitchen.
“The Raid 2” (three stars)
Wildly violent sequel to “The Raid,” picking up the same hero (Iko Uwais) and tossing him into an undercover situation that will lead to incredible fights and grisly carnage. Director Gareth Evans has emerged as a maestro of mayhem, and the movie really is ingeniously done — if it doesn’t exhaust you with its brutal attack. In Indonesian, with English subtitles.
Rating: R, for violence, language, nudity
Opening: Friday at Alderwood Mall, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas Seattle.