Starring: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara
Directed by: Gareth Evans (“The Raid: Redemption”)
Written by: Gareth Evans (“The Raid: Redemption”)

In my review for “The Raid: Redemption” almost exactly two years ago, I described the film as “an assault on the senses.” The mix of loud music, thuds of hand-to-hand combat and gunfire combined with unique camera work gave the film a very visceral sense of mayhem. Though “The Raid: Redemption” was good enough to get by on its action, the issue I raised was that there was very little in the way of character and story development. With plenty of room to grow, director Gareth Evans brings the second chapter in this planned trilogy, “The Raid 2.”

Shortly after the events of “The Raid: Redemption,” SWAT team member Rama (Iko Uwais) is offered a job to go undercover and infiltrate a crime family to find their connections to corrupt cops. To protect his family, Rama accepts and finds himself undercover in prison. Banding up with Uco, (Arifin Putra) the next in line for the biggest crime family in town, Rama eventually works his way into the ranks of the family upon his release. As he continues to get deeper inside the family and gain trust, he finds himself in increasing danger.

The good news here is that Evans has built upon the world established in the first film and brings a more nuanced and detailed story to the sequel. The undercover story works for the most part, as we see Rama get deeper and deeper undercover and the stakes become real. While it is certainly a step up from the first, it does not solve all of the problems. The story can, at times, feel stretched a little thin and overworked, especially as new characters become introduced throughout the film to disrupt the main story.

Where the film doesn’t falter, however, is in its action sequences. Make no mistake: this is one unapologetically violent movie. Much like it’s predecessor, “The Raid 2” quite literally pulls no punches when it comes to the brutality and bloodshed. Beyond just the level of violence is the fact that “The Raid 2” film almost plays like a demo reel of Evans’ capabilities as a director. There are so many thrilling action scenes in the film, the best of which are a trio of scenes that includes one man taking on many in a tightly spaced bathroom, a bloody train ride with a woman wielding two hammers, and a brilliantly choreographed car chase scene that sets the bar for all other action scenes this year. Whether it is intense martial arts, firefights or the previously mentioned car chase, Evans brings a unique perspective every time, almost always employing stylish techniques such as cameras that circulate the action. Simply put, Evans is nothing short of a master when it comes to constructing arresting action.

Whereas the first installment of “The Raid” had too little plot, “The Raid 2” has too much of it. At two and a half hours long, there are often long spans between action sequences. The story would not have suffered with a chunk of it excised. With “The Raid 2,” Evans loftily aimed at creating a deep, epic crime film. While it certainly isn’t on that great of a scale, it is frequently enthralling, packed with likely the best action sequences you will see all year, and is an improvement story-wise on the first film. Let’s hope that Evans gets the balance right on the third installment.

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