I don’t often watch your “typical” kick-punching movies, but generally ones that have horror or sci-fi elements to them. Despite that, I randomly went and checked out The Raid: Redemption when it was in theaters, and HOLY FUCK. Have you guys seen that movie? There’s so much brutal kick-punching in that movie that even I recommended it to everyone I knew. Writer/director Gareth Evans also dabbled into the horror world with his follow-up with his contribution of the segment “Safe Haven” to the anthology film V/H/S/2. Again, with “Safe Haven”, he wowed the audience and stole the show. Hearing rumblings about the 100+ day shooting schedule for The Raid 2: Berandal, and given his track record, it’s no surprise that this movie was one of the most anticipated films of Sundance, if not of the entire year. Well, I can assure you that Evans has done it again and completely blown the action genre wide open with the insanity of Berandal.
As we learn in the opening scene, you can’t just sell out your boss in the world of organized crime without paying the price. We then see our hero from the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais), in a small room with one door that’s shaking like an earthquake. We don’t really know what’s on the other side of that door, but while we question whether to be concerned for Rama’s safety or the safety of everyone on the other side of the door, we see how he got there. After learning about the corruption in the police department, Rama agrees to go into deep cover to bring the crooked cops to justice. To do this, he must go to prison and befriend Uko (Arifin Putra), the son of the head of a major group of organized crime. Despite how long and how deep Rama’s cover goes, there’s only so much waiting he can do to find the corruption before the violence finds its way to him. There are twists and turns and kicks and punches and blood and more punches, but we do eventually find out how far Rama is willing to go and where his limits are. Oh, and he kicked the shit out of everyone on the other side of the door.
Boy oh boy, I sure as shit am happy that I don’t live inside the brain of Gareth Evans, because nothing is safe in there. His previous efforts have been like a ride at an amusement park, where once you climb that initial peak, you know you won’t stop screaming until the end, and you’ll most likely be covered in blood. The difference with Berandal is that you go on a ride, get off, wander around a bit, only to get on a bigger and faster ride, and repeat the process the entire day. As if the skill of the martial artists performing in the film aren’t impressive enough, Evans simply refuses to cut away from anything, even if that means the camera will also be thrown through the window. One segment in particular goes from two mean fighting in a prison courtyard to these men attempting to escape by climbing a fence to being shot by a sniper who the camera then zooms in on to then zoom back out to the men on the fence and then BACK TO THE OTHER PEOPLE FIGHTING. How the fuck do you coordinate all of that?! It’s goddamned madness is what it is, and that’s just ONE sequence. If nothing else, Berandal just cements the fact that Evans is one of, if not THE best working action director today.
Whether you’ve just seen the trailer or you’re in the theater waiting for the movie to start or even if there’s just a lull in the carnage on the screen, you, the viewer, are Rama in that bathroom stall. The expectations for this film were incredibly high, and you knew that Evans would deliver on what he promised us in The Raid: Redemption. That opening sequence sets the tone for the whole movie and builds your excitement even more than you though possible as you sit there thinking, “Fuck yes, so many people are about to get punched in the head,” and when the tension finally snaps, the fight choreography is even more insane than you could anticipate. Most movies are lucky to get ONE sequence as impressive or nerve-wracking as some of what we see in The Raid 2: Berandal, yet that tension lends itself so easily to both Evans, the lead performers, and the entire stunt team. Remember when Uma Thurman was about to fight The Crazy 88s in Kill Bill? Imagine that feeling of a nervous ball of energy in your stomach, but getting that feeling over a dozen times and the feeling getting more intense the further into the film you are. From “Hammer Girl” to “Baseball Bat Guy” to “Car Chase Time” to “Punching in the Club” to “Curved Knife Things Dude” to “Romp in the Kitchen”,The Raid 2 delivers everything that fans of the first film loved. Not only that, but there is a little bit more story in there to go with it.
The immediate reactions to people walking out of The Raid 2 were calling it The Godfather. I mean…let’s relax a little everybody. Let’s not say things in hyperbole that sound great at the time. Compared to the first film, which took place in just one building and blew away everyone who saw it, yes, Berandal IS The Godfather in how sprawling the storyline is. We see the archetypical son who wants to step out of the shadow of his father and the cop who can’t be corrupted and the police chief who wants to make the cop dig deeper, but as I said, these are all classic archetypes. Sure, there are some pretty interesting looking characters to help provide variety in the fight scenes, and yes, everything “Hammer Girl” does is amazing, but other than being blown away by the physical talent of almost every single person involved in the film, Berandal doesn’t feel like it will be looked at in 40 years the way we look back at The Godfather now. Although The Godfather it’s not, The Raid 2: Berandal has set the bar for the crooked cop movie and can at least be considered The Godfather of the action-thriller.
Wolfman Moon Scale