We return to The Raid to find it needlessly longer, enjoyably brutal, and with a lopped off subtitle, “Berandal”
Writer/director Gareth Evans bends a narrative around his unconscionable depiction of violence, swelling the Raid 2 with an over exertion of dialog and a rut of routine Asian mafia tropes. Whereas The Raid was constructed unilaterally from point A to B, Raid 2 slithers through the alphabet in a winding fight fest, cataloging the spectrum, A to Z.
Rama (Iko Uwais) returns, slipping undercover and serving as an infection for the Jarkata. Raid 2 bolsters a character roster as much as it does the budget, bloating underneath as clans begin an international scurry of conflicts countrywide. Raid 2 forcibly lacks the concentrated center of ruthlessness contained in its predecessor, ballooning into a criminal epic at 150 minutes.
Criticisms levied toward Evans’ action masterpiece consistently cited grievances with the lack of narrative build-up, as if The Raid needed such purposeful strengthening to sell a kick (it didn’t). Evans still triangulates the necessity of foreign martial arts here, building car-to-car action which may sit amongst the premier scenes of its kind in the digital cinema era. A kitchen rumble inserts itself into the running for choreography awards, and what comes before turns into its competition.
Raid 2 is beautiful in spite of its sliced throats, shattered bones, and brain ejections. Squeamish need not join. In motion, with impossible swiveling cinematography and precision edits, this masterwork of screen-based aggression escalates a proven – seemingly complete – formula of Asian martial arts. Using an Indonesian art known as silat, Raid 2’s open palmed and weaponized brutality builds a refreshed pillar for this genre to sit upon.
And then it dies. Much is made of Arifin Putra as Uco, an aggressive kin of a respectfully traditional mafia father, eventually spiraling downward into predictable contrivances and uninteresting swerves. Bit parts weigh on structure with their own leaky purposes, sanding The Raid 2’s edges into ever dwindling boredom. Scraps are left to feed on, and Evans’ acuity is best layered on top of his abrasively loud brawls. Better (and certainly more direct) storytelling exists within those spats than through most of the flamboyant exchanges of words.
For clarity, Raid 2’s lumbering progression is satisfyingly concluded. Few films are back-end stacked to this capacity, but it is clear Evans knows how to leave a blood thirsty audience quenched after a period of dehydration. So stunning are those climatic duels, the few scant bits of roughhousing earlier are decimated in quality which is indeed impressive considering their caliber. Evans’ work is a slow burn that arguably oversteps or outright ignores ingrained expectations, but is utterly exact in its execution.
Mostly built with Red cameras (and some GoPro use), Raid 2 is a substantial boost over the murky and pitiful digital work of its senior. Whereas the original was muted in purples and blues, Raid 2 shows a relieving allowance for primaries. Flesh tones are vivid, environments are filtered with monochrome splashes, and color grading is made for variety.
Sony distributes the disc to Region A with an AVC encode of capable parameters. Despite the flurry of motion and frequent use of screen filling shattering glass, compression holds without bothersome pockets of artifacts. This is in contrast to certain dialog exchanges which host a familiar smearing, keeping things in line with The Raid. Clarity remains a concern.
In fairness, the source material musters some ample definition. It’s the consistency which is bothersome, ignoring those moments of GoPro use reserved for action. Close-ups flatten out or display an allegiance to fidelity. This is all shot-by-shot in terms of outward appearance.
Raid 2 loses any noise, creating images which are clear. Even in darkness, video holds without low light artifacts. Nothing impinges on a number of wide angle shots either, displaying intense sharpness during some shots in a sugar cane field. Those are highlights on a disc often strung up by its source.
This wild audio mix is a standout for its hostility, managing to separate between stereos to push kicks into the side and in careful consideration of any environment impact. Glass will crack when thugs are thrown, all in the proper direction. Slams on concrete crunch satisfyingly in appropriate channels. Gunfire is equally springy.
Raid 2 is often subtle too, with an aluminum baseball bat skirting the ground as a villain nears his target from behind, seated tightly in a surround. Rain slams a tin roof as a prelude to a prison brawl, and mud splashes follow. Echoes will also pierce the soundfield during closed area fights.
As a highlight, this feature executes a premium car chase, with engines blasting the LFE as they pass overhead and tire screeches managed in every channel. This sits under the core action itself and score. It’s an intense workout for the DTS-HD mix.
Gareth Evans begins with his commentary which will clone material elsewhere on the disc, but still provides a solid behind-the-scenes story. One deleted scene is offered before moving onto The Next Chapter, detailing the sequel’s creation. Ready for a Fight details the execution of each brawl and how carefully planned they were. Violent Ballet further delves into the action, including footage of practice runs. In total, these featurettes near 40-minutes. Finally, a 44-minute Q&A is offered, recorded after a screening.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.