“The Raid: Redemption” was bonkers.
An elite 20-man squad of cops in Jakarta, Indonesia, set out to take down a crime lord, only to confront an entire high-rise full of heavily armed thugs. Within minutes, the entire squad was down to rookie Rama (Iko Uwais) and a couple of allies.
Taking place nearly in real time as Rama tries to survive, trapped by swarms of machete-wielding maniacs, the ferociously intense “The Raid: Redemption” was overflowing with fight sequences that are among the craziest things you’ll ever see.
There was virtually no story, just dozens of bodies contorted in ways nature never intended. And the result was an instant classic.
Sadly, “The Raid 2” went and mucked things up by adding a plot.
Picking up just hours after “The Raid: Redemption,” Rama is approached to go undercover in a criminal syndicate to take down corrupt cops and other officials throughout the city.
Sent to prison for what was supposed to be a couple of months, he’s released two years later to a world of power plays and a manufactured turf war with a rival Japanese gang.
You have to admire writer-director Gareth Evans’ ambition, but almost none of the dramatic elements work.
Still, here are five pretty good reasons to see “The Raid 2”:
1) During Rama’s prison stay, he trains by punching the plaster off the walls of his cell, fights a couple of dozen guys in a bathroom stall and initiates an absurdly violent yet operatic inmates vs. inmates vs. guards free-for-all in the mud pit that passes for the prison’s yard. Sure, it makes it all but impossible to tell who’s breaking whose bones or why. But few fans of the original will really care.
2) Yayan Ruhian, who, along with Uwais, choreographed the fight scenes in both movies. Ruhian portrayed Mad Dog in the original and turns up in the “Raid 2” looking the same and fighting the same. But, don’t be confused. It’s a different role. He even gets a backstory.
3) Hammer Girl! Julie Estelle makes an immediate impression in her small role as a fashionable deaf girl wearing Jackie O. sunglasses and a short white skirt, who wields a claw hammer in each hand and lays waste to a handful of bodyguards in matching black suits on a subway train. The Tarantino-esque sequence is worthy of its own spinoff.
4) In addition to those hammers, the extended takes of hyper-creative mayhem involve death by machetes, knives, bottles, broken glass, chairs, a hibachi grill, a baseball bat, a baseball and a toilet, as well as more mundane things like bullets and car crashes. And that’s just what I remember.
5) It’s in Indonesian with English subtitles — it’s even being released by Sony Pictures Classics — so watching all the over-the-top violence should feel somewhat more highbrow.