Film Review: The Raid 2: Berendal

Rookie cop Rama (Uko Iwais) nearly lost his life in the clearing of a crime-ridden Jakarta apartment block in 2012’s The Raid: Redemption, discovering corruption inside his police force in the process.

The sequel, which begins immediately afterward, follows Rama undercover in an attempt to expose dealings between the corrupt police commissioner and the prolific Bangun and Goto gangs.

Spurred to action by the murder of his brother Andi, told that his presence endangers his pregnant wife and that he is to ingratiate himself with mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), Rama attacks an enemy of Bangun’s in order to get sent to prison with Bangun’s son Uco (Arifin Putra).

The Raid 2: Berendal

Directed by Gareth Evans.
Starring Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Yayan Ruhian, Oka Antara, Julie Estelle, Cecep Arif Rahman.

He saves Uco’s life in a muddy prison riot – which looks like a SuperJail! episode come alive – and eventually gains the man’s confidence. Two years pass, the presence of his anti-corruption handlers largely evaporates, and Rama earns a job with the Bangun family when he and Uco are freed.

On the outside, Uco’s greed and impatience for influence threaten the balance of power between Bangun and Goto (Kenichi Endo), who have the sort of mutual respect only maturity brings to abiding enemies, while the underworld ascent of ambitious gangster Bejo (Alex Abbad) and the corrupt powers within the police force further destabilize the city’s tenuous peace.

If dynastic power struggles and the vagaries of police and gangster politics grow complicated, what matters in The Raid 2: Berendal is Rama, hero, both one in a million and one against an army. His wife and child exist as talismans to the audience as much as to Rama: mere cyphers, they are indicators of Rama’s essential goodness, since outright kindness is in remission for most of the proceedings as one hyper-violent encounter leads to another.

Indeed, Uko Iwais – who as actor, stuntman, choreographer and pencak silat fighter is nearly as much of a living Swiss Army knife as his character – surely exhausts every trick and manoeuvre in the book of Indonesian martial arts as fast-paced, bloody, balletic fights spill through jail cells, warehouses, fine dining establishments, city streets and highways. If Takashi Miike remade The Matrix: Reloaded, it would probably look something like this.

From “Hammer Girl” (Julie Estelle) and “Baseball Bat Man” (Very Tri Yulisman) to the taciturn figure of “The Assassin” (Cecep Arif Rahman) – and the film even deploys fight choreographer Yayan Ruhian (who played Mad Dog in The Raid) in a new role – Berendal features all manner of warriors and thugs wielding all manner of weaponry.

But this comes at the expense of the economy of the first film, which, with a straightforward and local villain, was content to hint at the danger and corruption swirling around invisibly beyond its scope; here, in attempting to encompass what lay on the periphery, the story overextends itself to a sprawling two-and-a-half-hour runtime.

Welsh director Gareth Evans knows his audience and by ratcheting everything up to 11 on the proverbial 10-point dial, he lays bare the anthropology of modern action spectatorship as viewers gasp and laugh in shock and delight at the gruesomeness and inventiveness of killings.

Berendal won’t win many new converts, but action aficionados ready to be impressed by unremitting violence will doubtless appreciate a cinematic body count instantly certain to be one of the highest of the decade.