After the linear kick of 2011's surprise Indonesian hit The Raid, Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans is back with an epic-style sequel that sags under the weight of its ambitions. Indulgent both in its storytelling and in each set-piece, this two-and-a-half hour thriller owes more to Hong Kong classic Infernal Affairs than to The Raid. But even as it wears us out, its expertly staged fight scenes keep us entertained.
Immediately after that original raid, young Jakarta cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is recruited by his boss (Cok Simbara) to infiltrate the local mafia. This requires Rama to go to prison for two years to protect fellow inmate Uco (Arifin Putra), earning the trust of Uco's father, the fearsome mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). When they're released, Rama joins the family firm. But Uco is impatient to inherit the empire, and secretly plots with wildcard thug Bejo (Alex Abbad) to spark a turf war with the Japanese gangster Goto (Ken'ichi Endo).
Evans tells this story as a sprawling mass of talky plotting and outrageous fight scenes, as Rama works his way into the mob and then has to clean up the increasingly nasty mess. Each brawl is more frenzied than the one before it, and we can't help but laugh each time Rama turns a corner and confronts the next thug (or gang of them) in his way. Highlights include a frankly insane car chase, the climactic kitchen battle and two specialised baddies: a hammer-swinging deaf girl (Julie Estelle) and a skater-dude (Very Tri Yulisman) with a metal baseball bat.
All of this is choreographed with precision to cause the maximum amount of bone-cracking, head-smashing mayhem, which makes the battles more amusing than thrilling. At least Uwais keeps us on his side with another likeable performance as a good guy being beaten to a pulp as he tries to do the right thing. And the strikingly good-looking Putra and Abbad are terrific violence-obsessed nutcases. Yes, Evans fills the film with witty touches and some intriguing subtext. But it's more about the spectacle than anything else.
Run time: 150 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th April 2014
Box Office USA: $2.6M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Production compaines: XYZ Films, Pt. Merantau Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 122 Rotten: 32
IMDB: 8.2 / 10
Director: Gareth Evans
Producer: Nate Boloti, Ario Sagantoro, Aram Tertzakian
Screenwriter: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais as Rama, Arifin Putra as Ucok, Tio Pakusodewo as Bangun, Oka Antara as Eka, Julie Estelle as Hammer Girl, Ken'ichi Endô as Hideaki Goto, Kazuki Kitamura as Ryuichi, Donny Alamsyah as Andi, Alek Abbad as Bejo, Very Tri Yulisman as Baseball Bat Man, Yayan Ruhian as Prakoso, Ryuhei Matsuda as Keiichi, Roy Marten as Reza, Epy Kusnandar as Topan, Cok Simbara as Bunawar, Cecep Arif Rahman as The Assassin
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