"THE RAID 2"
Starring Rama Iko Uwais, Uco Arifin Putra, Bangun Tio Pakusodewo, Bejo Alex Abbad; directed by Gareth Evans; 148 minutes; R for strong, bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language; B+
Make no mistake. If what you're after is insane, violent martial arts action, "The Raid 2" is quite possibly the ultimate.
Some might argue that distinction should go to its simpler, stripped-down 2011 predecessor about a rookie cop (Indonesian Silat champion Iko Uwais) fighting his way through hundreds of armed henchmen to arrest a major drug dealer on the top floor of an apartment building. "The Raid 2" is essentially an extension of the original, though, with the same super-saturation of viciously brutal combat and the same dazzlingly stylized visual flourishes from British-born writer-director-editor Gareth Evans. Only this time, the slaughter has more of an epic quality and there's more plot to keep track of between maulings.
Quite a bit more plot, actually, making this sequel play more like a martial-arts-movie equivalent of Scorsese's "The Departed," if not the "Godfather" saga. Whether the crowd who thrilled to the story-optional carnage of "The Raid: Redemption" will appreciate all the dramatic complications (which increase this film's running time by nearly an hour) is debatable.
After miraculously (and somewhat ridiculously) emerging from the first film with only a few bruises, honest cop Rama (Uwais) is told that the only way to save himself and his family from reprisals is to go back undercover and root out the real bad guys: Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), the crime lord who rules Jakarta, and a high-ranking corrupt police official. That means getting himself sent to prison, where he becomes friendly with Bangun's imprisoned son Uco (Arifin Putra), and then hired by treacherously ambitious Uco and his father and gradually becoming embroiled in a turf war with Bangun's Japanese gangster rivals.
The long, increasingly complicated scenario, populated by an intriguing assortment of bizarre supporting characters (including a couple known as Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Guy), has at least one structural benefit: It provides a little dramatic down time between outbreaks of ultra-violence. Until the gang war is declared, that is, and the bloodletting more or less becomes nonstop.
Even if it makes you feel like covering your eyes from time to time, "Raid 2" is always worth a look.
Bruce Ingram, Chicago Sun-Times