The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)

Even Raidier!

The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)I made no efforts to hide my love of The Raid: Redemption. I reviewed it, bought it, told people about it, and I think it was even one of my top movies the year it came out. When my friend Phil came to town, he did so with an invitation to see the sequel to this movie … that I was unaware even existed. But once I had found out, I couldn’t wait to go see The Raid 2: Berandal, written and directed by Gareth Evans, and starring Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, and Donny Alamsyah.

Sometime after the events of the first movie, Andi (Donny Alamsyah) is captured by an ambitious gangster named Bejo (Alex Abbad), who kills Andi for his own ambitions. Elsewhere, Rama (Iko Uwais) meets the head of Jakarta’s anti-corruption task force and is asked to go to jail and get close to Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of the crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), and join their syndicate in order to find evidence about a corrupted police commissioner.

I felt myself very confused when it would come to recommending this movie or not. I probably spent an equal amount of time in this movie excessively bored and excited. The action was awesome, but it could take a lot of time getting there, and a lot of that time was boring. And, as a martial arts movie, of course it didn’t bother to make a lot of sense. You think they’d have tried harder since they wasted so much extra time with the story. But they didn’t. That’s how they were able to have their characters tossing bodies into a lake in broad daylight. Now that’s not necessarily stupid; it’s more bold. Having the boss complain that the fish taste funny in the lake where they dispose of dead bodies, now that’s just asinine. There were also lines like, “This is bad. This is really bad,” when the city was on the verge of an all-out gang war! I think that qualifies as “super-duper über bad!” Also, if Rama is this super cop, why is he stupid enough to hide the wire he put on Uco in his wallet? I would say I open my wallet on average at least 3 times a day, yet he has a wire the size of a watch battery in his for like a month before he notices? One thing I could get on board with in this movie is the fact that I realized that they never let women talk. AM I RIGHT, FELLAS?! They barely ever let them speak and the only prominent female character in the movie is deaf and cannot speak, so women’s rights are going just fine in Asia.

Let us get past the story because that had nothing to do with my interest in this movie. So how were the fights? They sure were! Wait… I mean good! They retained a great deal of what I called, “Oh shit! Moments.” Some were from the fights, but most were in a pretty spectacular car chase nearing the end of the movie. And that last big fight in the kitchen was pretty intense. The only issue I had with it was with the fact that Rama took so long to arm himself. You were in a kitchen! They don’t use knives while cooking in Indonesia? You had to get one from your enemy? Well, at least that guy had knives. The other two assassins had the stupidest weapons I’ve ever seen in a martial arts movie, at least ones that weren’t just picked up because they were there. The guy Rama fought in the kitchen had two kerambits (which Wikipedia tells me are traditional Indonesian dagger-like weapons). The guy assassin carried around a traditional Indonesian … baseball bat … and would even use baseballs themselves as weapons! And the girl carried two claw hammers! The most ancient of martial arts weaponry! I guess she would prefer it to the hammering I usually as Asian girls involved with on … certain websites… Did they use them in cool ways? Yes, occasionally, but the choices were so ridiculous they were laughable. They also had a scene of some rapid fire face punchin’ that seemed right out of Ip Man. I loved me some Ip Man, so I thought it was awesome here too … even if it did seem a little … stolen. There were few negative sides to the action besides the spacing between, but there were a few. One such incident was a stabbing early on in the film. Now, when a guy goes to stab someone and accidentally stabs someone else when they’re pulled in front of their target I can understand. But three times?

The artsy shit they kept going for was one of my biggest problems with this movie. I try to be tolerant of a lot of talking in these movies because I don’t want every martial arts movie to be a Tony Jaa movie that barely bothers with story and serve mainly as a show off video for Tony Jaa. But what I had big problems with dealing with in this movie was how much time they wasted on shots that seemed to only serve to try to make the movie seem fancy. If I wanted to watch a coin spin on a table for 30 seconds, I have all the means to make that happen in my own home. I don’t need to give money to a theater for it. I really think movies should stop trying with this slow mo stuff. I’m not going to think your movie is any better because of it, especially if I fall asleep waiting for something to actually happen.

I can’t say that I had that much to say about the cast of the movie. They all performed adequately. I did have one big problem though, and that was with the presence of Yayan Ruhian. Now, he performed just fine in this movie. He kicked some ass and even had some good emotional moments. He also had some kick ass moments in the first movie … when he was killed! You’re just gonna bring him back and make him a different dude and think I’m not gonna notice?! I’m not THAT racist! I can still tell Asian people apart! At first I wondered if they were ever going to explain why he was there, but then I found out he was just a completely different guy with no reference to any kind of relation with his other character. Then I wondered why they were trying so hard to make us care about his new character, but then I figured that out when they killed him. I assume they wanted us to feel bad for him, but I found it difficult to feel bad about the death of someone I watched die already. I’m weird like that.

So what am I trying to tell you about The Raid 2: Berandal? I’m not entirely sure. The action was pretty fantastic, but it can take its sweet time getting there and they try to show off by making you watch a coin spin. But, I think if you have that information going in you can be better prepared for the long stretches of boring and manage to make it to the awesome action intact. I did not have such a luxury, so all of you owe me. The Raid 2: Berandal gets “Bring back the ball” out of “No … I’m done.”

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The Raid: Redemption (2012)

Pulling a Trigger is Like Ordering Takeout.

My break is over.  Time to review stuff!  I felt that today’s movie was fortuitous for me.  It’s a movie that I heard about while it was in theaters, but never really from anyone whose opinions I valued enough to make me check it out in theaters.  But I kept hearing that this movie was such an awesome action movie, with great use of guns and great hand to hand combat.  It stuck in my brain like a thorn, or like that Q-tip I lost in the third grade.  But, unlike that Q-tip, this demanded resolution.  And, right smack in the middle of my break, I realized that this movie had just showed up in RedBox.  It had to be mine.  And that brings us to my review of The Raid: Redemption, written and directed by Gareth Evans, and starring Iko Uwais, Donny Alamsyah, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Joe Taslim, and Tegar Satrya.

Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) leads a SWAT team to a building in the slums with the intention of busting in and arresting the merciless drug lord, Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy), and his two henchmen, the brains Andi (Donny Alamsyah) and the brawn “Mad Dog” (Yayan Ruhian).  A team of 20 SWAT members enter the building but are quickly spotted and the shit hits the fan.  Really, that’s about the entire story.

I found that I really enjoyed this movie, but you probably won’t see any of the reasons in this first paragraph.  The story is entirely unimpressive.  I actually took no notes whatsoever on the story of this movie.  It made no impact.  It’s really nothing more than SWAT deciding they should go to this building and arrest a guy and it doesn’t go according to plan.  Then they try to spice it up with a little corruption and a brother showing up alongside the bad guys, but none of that’s mined for anything.  It’s a typical and unsurprising story, but it’s also not the focus of the movie.

I came into this movie having heard that it was one of the coolest action movies in years.  I started out a little shaky with the action in this movie.  In the beginning, they seemed to be focusing either too much on making the movie stylish or on making the action all based around guns.  I’m not really that big of a fan of gun based action.  I prefer a good fist fight.  I’m honorable like that.  You’re not special if you can point a gun at someone and defeat them from 20 feet away, but if you can face-punch someone into submission, you’re alright.  But the action in the beginning of the movie, though it was cool, was too much about the guns.  I did like the sound effects they used for the guns because each shot sounded like a jackhammer.  But here’s the thing about guns: they run out of bullets.  When they run out of bullets, it turns towards the hand to hand combat.  And it’s fuckin’ tight!  Right from the moment where Rama goes down a hallway, beating ass with only a nightstick and a knife, I was on board.  The hand to hand combat scenes are just fantastic.  There are people that might say that some of the fight scenes – and particularly the fight between Rama, Andi, and Mad Dog – go on for too long, but there’s no such thing in my book.  I’ve liked Tony Jaa movies before, and those are basically just exhibitions for the cool shit Tony Jaa can do.  So clearly I would watch a movie that was not much more than one long fight scene.  They broke them up in this movie, but the fights were long and spectacular, mixing Jiu Jitsu with kickboxing and probably other stuff, but they were all sweet.  And, there was generally at least one moment in each fight that made me exclaim, “Oh shit!”  Rama kicks a guy down a stairwell and he lands on a wall, breaking his back.  Rama kicks a guy through a door and impales another one through the neck on the broken remains of the door.  He also grabs a guy’s leg, pulls him down with it, and stomps his head.  I was down when I saw the first of these “Oh shit” moments, but seeing the rest made me realize what I had heard was correct.  This is a movie full of awesome action.  One thing that came along with the cool, prolonged fight scenes that I liked was that the people in the fight would get noticeably exhausted as the fight continued.  The fight didn’t get less awesome because they were weary, but the way they played it was as if the fight was one shot and the actors didn’t get a break in the filming.

I had roughly the same feelings – and exactly the same amount of notes taken – about the performances in the movie.  Nothing really to say about them.  They all did a fine job, but the movie did not require very much out of them.  The ones that did it punched the hell out of people’s faces very well and that’s about it.

The Raid: Redemption offers next to nothing by way of story or acting chops, but that was not what was advertised.  I was told this movie was one of the most awesome action movies – both for gunplay and martial arts – that has been released in recent memory.  It was.  The action of this movie was friggin’ dope, and caused me to exclaim profanities out loud on more than one occasion.  This movie is definitely worth the watch.  Go check it out from a RedBox for a dollar if you have any interest in martial arts movies and I highly doubt you will regret it.  I bought the movie the very next day on BluRay because I’ll watch these action scenes over and over again.  The Raid: Redemption gets “The coolest action movie in recent memory” out of “Go to work and have fun.”

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